Blog Posts

Work of Art in Progress

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Greetings from The Art Dungeon! I have been toying with the idea of sharing a work in progress for a long time, but procrastination has always got the better of me. So here I am, finally getting down to it and what could be better than the piece I am working on presently?

Today, I am going to share with you all, the evolutionary process of the artwork I am working on currently. As mentioned earlier, it’s work in progress so bear in mind that I am yet to finish this piece. I believe that the journey is as important as the destination hence it becomes imperative that I give you all a sneak peek into my process. So let’s dive right into it!

This artwork, which is still untitled, is meant to be the cover page of a magazine with the underlying theme, “Nurturing Nature for a Better Future.” I have depicted a personified version of Mother Nature, endowed with all of her classical elements – air (or wind), fire, water, earth and aether (or space) which also explain the complexity of life all around us. These elements are essential for the survival of all living beings and therefore should be respected and protected from any abuse.

Here’s a slide show of images showing my creative process:

I have represented air and fire in the form of the flowing locks of the female form of Mother Nature. The tree bark-like hind limbs, its roots and the vegetation adorning the figure symbolize the earth or land. Water is represented by the surging waves of the sea next to the land and the backdrop of the artwork forms aether or space.

These elements, which form the basis of all living life and matter, are blessings that Mother Nature bestows upon the one and only habitable place we have in the universe – planet earth, depicted in my artwork as the offspring in her womb.  Not only does she nourish and nurture our planet, she cares for us as well, thus making us all her children.

The earth in the womb of Mother Nature symbolizes our future and only if we take care of the mother, can we have a healthy and happy future. Nature is like a refillable prescription that keeps providing to us in abundance and adequacy, just like a mother does to her child. But if we don’t look after her, she will eventually get drained out, consequently affecting our future generations as well as the future of our planet. Hence, we need to nurture and heal her with all that we can for a better tomorrow.

So how do we do it? All we need to do is replenish our planet with greenery, crystal clear waters and clean air. I have depicted this in the form of three human hands representing vegetation, water and wildlife respectively. It is with our very own hands that we can paint our beloved planet with these colors of Mother Nature and make it a better place to live in. For it is air that moves us, fire that transforms us and water that shapes us. Let’s nurture nature for a better future.

Like I said before, this artwork is still in the making and this post is meant to be an insight into the creative process behind it. My next post will hopefully feature the finished piece where I will delve into the technique and medium I have used. Should also have a title for the artwork by then but am open to suggestions, so do share your ideas in the comments sections below! Cheers and watch out for more!!   

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“et ressurectionis”

Hey folks! After a hiatus of two weeks, I am resurfacing with a new post! Finally got a chance to get back to the drawing board after a long long time, so the artwork I am sharing in today’s post not only serves as a comeback to my blog but also to my art!

“et ressurectionis”

I call this one “et ressurectionis”, which is Latin for resurrection. This artwork is once again inspired by the present Covid-ridden scenario that our world is relentlessly fighting day and night. It has been almost a year since we have been in the clutches of this dreaded virus. While we continue our attempts at understanding this miniscule yet powerful entity, it in turn has taught us a lot of valuable lessons, not just physical ones, but also on a spiritual level.

Thanks to the corona virus, mankind has been restrained to the confines of his four-walled dwellings like never before. This alone time, or “Me time” as I like to call it, has given him the opportunity to contemplate and retrospect on what he was, what he has become and what he should actually be. It has given him a chance to delve into the depths of his psyche and confront the real pandemic that has been plaguing mankind for centuries – his own vices, namely anger, violence, greed and his lust for power as well as wealth. Not only is he fighting a deadly biological contagion, but also an intangible one, that is far bigger a threat to the existence of the human race that the organic pathogen itself.

This artwork is a representation of man working towards his long impending goal – to break free from the shackles of his own vices and emerge renewed and victorious not just from the pandemic, but also himself. The blue phoenix in this painting is a personification of mankind reborn after it succeeds in purging the pathosis that’s decomposing his humanity along with the physiological affliction that’s wearing him out physically, for a blue phoenix  is a symbol of rebirth, a return to being, and a new spiritual path.

The phoenix teaches us not just to let go of our old self and our limiting self concepts, but also inspires us to embrace and accept the new us that is abound with all the goodness in the form of virtues that have been listed on the feathers of the phoenix in this artwork.

In times of doubt and confusion, the blue phoenix symbolizes strength, transformation and renewal. For only from the ashes of who we were, can we rise up to become who we are to be. That is how we are rediscovering ourselves as we get past COVID-19.

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Art and Faith

The marriage between religion and art has always been one full of turmoil. There are several instances from the past as well as the present when the most artistic imagery depicting religion has been considered disrespectful or derogatory to the faith in question or has managed to create a scandal. Many artists indulging in religious art are grossly misunderstood when all they want to do is express themselves.  

This compels me to ask the inevitable question – should artists mix art and religion and if they do, should they be left uninhibited, free to explore the realms of religion through their art or should they be sensitive towards matters of faith?

Art has the capability to illustrate and express religious beliefs, customs and values through iconography and body postures. Religious paintings are personal expressions of an artist about religious themes and principles as seen through his eyes. Moreover, aided by their aesthetic skill, artists have improved our understanding of religion. They have succeeded in bringing history to life with their clever manipulation of colors, textures and styles thereby expanding our horizon about past events. Until recently, religion and art were symbiotic, with aspects of the former making up the subject matter of the latter. 

Religious art serves decorative as well as reflective purposes and its main objective is to assert a moral message of the religion it represents.   Not only does it tell the story of a religion as told in its holy scriptures, but also provides an insight into the varying lifestyles of different religious groups.  It helps in keeping religious traditions alive and visualizing religious events from the past. Religious paintings can idealize and glorify a religion and possess the power to make believers out of non believers. 

In my understanding, the harmony between art and religion ceases to exist if it is communalized. When religious art becomes a vehicle for propaganda and serves the selfish motives of fundamentalists and right wing zealots, it loses its aesthetic appeal, leading to criticism and subsequent demand for curbs on artistic expression. The line between expression of and regard for religious beliefs is an extremely thin one.  An artist needs to take care that his portrayal of religion through his work doesn’t hurt anyone’s religious faith and ideology. In order to do so, every artist needs to be open-minded and think beyond religion and politics so that his art spreads positivity.

I am also of the firm belief that if the artist is expected to revere and respect the religious sentiments of people, they in turn too need to view his art with an unprejudiced mind. If art is to achieve its purpose, mutual understanding between its creator and viewer is the key. While trying to be sensitive towards the religious sentiments of his audience, the artist shouldn’t end up curbing his artistic expression for it is he who gives visual narrative to religion and god. 

In my opinion, one must first appreciate religious art solely for its creative genius before cross analyzing its objective. While each viewer will have his or her own perspective and draw his or her own inferences from it, they must also make an attempt to see it through the artist’s eyes, without being judgmental. Religious art is the external expression of the artist’s personal vision. What the artist depicts is a rendition of his own belief and faith and a projection of the world around him from his point of view, without any intention of offending others. I believe he deserves to be appreciated for his shear artistic genius, regardless of the subject matter.

I am convinced that as an artist, while I should have the liberty to portray religion through my work, I also need to practice self constraint to some extent so that my work doesn’t hurt anybody’s religious sentiments.

What’s do you think? Do you think artists should be given the luxury to explore religion as they wish? Or should they restrain from mixing the two? I leave this post open to you all and would love to hear your point of view so do share your opinion in the comments sections below. If I get enough feedback, my next post will hopefully be a compilation of all the views I get. So fire away!!

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Where did Your Art Supplies Come From?

Since time in memoriam, art has been mankind’s favorite creative activity and we have indulged in it with the help of innumerable tools, techniques, and mediums. Most of the basic art supplies we use today have revolutionized the art world to such an extent that it’s impossible to fathom what art would be like without them. But have you ever wondered how and when they came into existence??  Here’s a history of art materials that I consider to be the backbone of the art world.

Pencil

This basic tool that makes it possible for us to give form and shape to our creative thoughts came into being due to the discovery of an unusually pure deposit of graphiteinEnglandin1564. It’s this graphite that makes up the writing part of a pencil which is commonly referred to as the “lead”. The name graphite originates from the Greek word graphein, which means “to write.” Artists’ pencils come in a wide range of hardness, depending on how much clay is used to bind the graphite.

Easel

Easels are believed to have existed as early as ancient Egypt. The first written record of an easel was by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century. In the 13th century easel painting became more popular than wall painting.

Pen

The earliest versions of pens were the brush pens used by the Chinese for writing (1st millennium BC), reed pens used by the Egyptians (circa 300 BC) and quill pensor pens made of bird feathers(7th century or earlier). Then came the metallic pens and ones with metallic nibs in the mid-19th century which didn’t have a reservoir of ink in them, and had to be dipped in inkwells. Thereafter, fountain pens, which don’t have to be dipped in ink constantly, were developed in 1884. Ballpoint pens were invented in the 1930s or 40s, and soft-tipped pens became commercially available only by the 1960s. Most pen-and-ink drawings done before the 20th century were produced with reeds or quills. Some famous artists that favored pens were Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Rembrandt, and Vincent van Gogh.

Paintbrush

Paintbrushes are one of the earliest art supplies known to have been used as early as the Paleolithic Period. Evidence of this can be seen in caves in Spain and France and in early Egyptian tombs. Paintbrushes have been made of animal fibers such as hog bristles or horsehair, and more modern brushes are made of nylon fibers, polyethylene, or even wire.

Oil paints

Until quite recently it was believed that oil painting had originated in Europe in the 11th century. In 2008 it was discovered that oil paints extracted from natural sources were used in cave paintings in Afghanistan in the7th century (around 650AD). But it was also discovered and popularized by painters in 15th century Netherlands.By the end of the 16th century oil paints replaced tempera and become the medium of choice for several artists in Europe, especially Italy. Some of the world’s most famous paintings like the Mona Lisa have been created using oil paints.

Crayon

The basic components of a crayon—wax with pigment—can be traced back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt and Greecebut the earliest forms of crayons, i.e., chalk and pastels were known as early as the 16th century. Wax-based crayons were probably developed sometime in the 19th century. The good old Crayolas used in school were invented in 1902.

The Paint Palette

In the early medieval times, artists would put their pigments into several bowls, eventually ending up mixing paints and having lots of dishes to wash. This led to the development of the artist’s palette.

One of the oldest known depictions of the palette—a small wooden disc with blotches of paint on top, appears in De Mulieribus Claris, a 1374 collection of famous women’s biographies by Italian scholar Giovanni Boccaccio. One of them is a palette in the shape of a nine-pointed star held by a female painter as she works on a Madonna and Child composition.

By the 16th century, the kidney bean-shaped palette with a hole for the thumb emerged, as seen in an engraved portrait of Flemish painterHans Bol. Rectangular palettes were also used among Flemish painters such as Dirck Jacobsz, who included one in a 1550 portrait, as did Dutch Mannerist painter Joachim Wtewael in a self-portrait from 1601.
It eventually reached other parts of Europe by the mid-17th century as is evident fromArtemisia Gentileschi’s
Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting from the 1630s and Diego Velázquez’sseminal 1656-group portraitLas Meninas. Little has changed about the classic artist’s palette since, other than the introduction of materials like plastic, acrylic, and safety glass in place of wood.

Canvas

Canvas was originally introduced in 14th-century Italy as a more affordable alternative to wood panel. However, it took centuries to catch on because most Renaissance art was made for and funded by wealthy families who preferred lavish panel paintings. Works on canvas were considered less significant and reserved for secular paintings to be hung in private summer properties. By the 16th century, Italian artists and their patrons started to realize that wood is prone to decay, and canvas became the ideal surface for painting. The best quality canvases came from Venice and eventually spread to Northern Europe, where they slowly overtook the panel tradition. Staunch panelistPeter Paul Rubens’ first experiment on canvas, Wolf and Fox Hunt(c. 1616), helped popularize it in his native Flanders, and by the 18th century it became the de facto surface for painting.

The Paint Tube

American portrait painter John Goffe Rand single-handedly revolutionized art with his invention of the paint tube.
Rand was frustrated with the shelf life of his oil paints, often finding them dried up before they were even used. At that time, there were only two options available for storing paint – in fragile glass jars or syringes, which were dangerous to carry around, or in pig bladders, which artists would fill with pigments and seal with a string. To access the colours, artists had to poke a hole in the bladder and scrape out as much paint as possible. Since the hole couldn’t be re-sealed, whatever paint they didn’t gather went to waste.


In 1841, Rand had an epiphany: Small metal tubes would make storing paints simpler, cleaner, and handier, while increasing their longevity and portability. By March 6th, he had taken out patents on these “metallic collapsible tubes,” and they soon became a hit. In 1904, British chemist William Winsor added a screw able cap to Rand’s tube, allowing painters to save colours for later use. Pigment experts could then produce and sell paints in bulk without fear of them drying out, thereby making the medium cheaper.

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.britannica.com/list/art-history-the-origins-of-7-of-your-favorite-art-supplies

https://www.creativelive.com/blog/inventions-that-made-us-more-creative/

Artist Block

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Do you find yourself staring at the blank white canvas perched on your easel, foxed at your inability to make a mark on it? Have you been mulling over your first brush stroke not just for a day, but for weeks, months or even years? Well then, Houston, we have a situation here! Time to sound a Code Red, for what you are experiencing is the Armageddon of the art world – the dreaded artist block. It is the apocalypse that’ll devastate and annihilate your artistic progress.

But relax! No need to panic, for it can be averted. As artists, we all have had those phases in our lives when we feel utterly confused, perplexed and frustratingly stuck. This is the time when innovative ideas seem to run dry and art inspiration is sorely lacking. It’s a common dilemma that can afflict all artists at some time or the other during their artistic journeys.  

What exactly is an artist block?  

Also known as a creative block, it is a period when artists cannot access their creativity and/or they cannot bring themselves to create a new piece of work. They feel like they have run out of things to draw. Simply put, it is a time when artistic drive is missing.

What causes an artist block?

The most common cause is a lack of inspiration or ideas. But inspiration is not the only problem, it’s also inactivity. If you are not practicing your art regularly, you will eventually run out of inspiration. So the key is to keep working and keep the momentum going. On the other hand artist block can also happen if you are mentally or physically exhausted. So do take care of yourself and take a break when you feel like you are burning out. Sometimes just looking at the world around you and enjoying it sights and sounds can help you grow as an artist!

How do you get rid of artist block?

Whether you’re uninspired, worried your work isn’t good enough or just can’t think of anything to sketch, the creative block is for real. But you must not let it get to you. Life gives us enough inspiration to be creative at all times. It’s up to us to find it and put it to good use. There are numerous ways to come out of this dry spell of creativity. Here’s how:

1. Create something on the canvas even if it’s just a simple sketch or a splash of colors. It is these marks and textures that will inspire you.

2. Travel or just go out for a stroll to the park or beach and look at everything afresh. The little subtleties of nature will appear to you in a totally new light.

3. Visit an art museum, gallery or online art websites that showcases art genre of your interest to draw inspiration from the old masters.

4. Enter an art competition to give you a goal to work towards and spark your creativity. Moreover, if you are selected and get to attend the art show, the works of other contestants will serve as a source of inspiration.

5. Read inspirational art quotes by the great masters of painting. It will not only inspire you but also motivate you once you get to know how they succeeding in combating their own lull periods.

6. Read art books if you are stuck with common issues like how to start a painting, what medium to use or how to fine tune your style.

7. Take a break if you feel you are experiencing artist burnout. It’ll give you time to contemplate on your status as well as progress as an artist. If you are just stuck on a particular painting, start a new one and toggle between them to keep the creative juices flowing.

8. Use creative exercises like drawing or painting your favorite subject for a month, making ten spontaneous paintings within a time limit, or recreating a series of an old painting in new ways each time.

9. Attend an art workshop where you can explore new techniques or media. You can also ask a friend or mentor to give you a creative challenge to work on.

10. Find a muse that inspires you andtake photos of this muse. Then go through the images and sketch or paint specific aspects of the subject in detail.

11. Clean up and revamp your studio or work space. A cluttered work area hampers creativity and kills inspiration.  

12. Take a timeout from email and technology and just focus on your creative practice.

13. Visit a library or bookstore and explore a topic or subject you’ve been wanting to paint.

14. Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs with a good workout, a solid meal, good sleep and some meditation.

15. Maintain a journal, scrapbook or notebook of your doodling and random musings that you can refer to later for inspiration.
Check out my blog post titled A Tour of My Sketchbook

16. Socialize and unwind with friends and acquaintances. It will clear your head and rejuvenate the creative center of your brain.

17. Take inspiration from other genres of art like literature, music, dance and even culinary arts for new ideas. 

18. Create a Pinterest board with images that inspire you and make note of specific characteristics that appeal to you about each artwork as well as how you can incorporate these features in your own work in your own unique style. 
Check out my Pinterest inspiration board here.

My Secret Tool

As an artist, I’ve come up with my very own fool proof solution to overcome my creative slump that seems to have worked for me each and every time, at least till now! I come up with my most creative concepts just before I hit the sack. As weird as it may sound, it’s when I close my eyes and shut my brain off to the outside world that I am able dive into the deep, dark abyss of my mind and conjure magical innovations. I also keep the notes app on my iPhone handy when I’m out on a long leisurely stroll. My best ideas come when I’m surrounded by nature because my mind is free to soar and explore new horizons.  Besides these two trump cards, my trusted sketchbook and Pinterest board have always got my back, so plan B is also in place!

I consider these a form of “therapy” when I find myself in the shackles of a creative rut. You are most welcome to try them out if you are in one too. This is my troubleshooting mechanism, maybe it can be yours as well!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-Artist%27s-Block

https://www.icreatedaily.com/artist-block/

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Capturing Your Art with Your Smartphone

After toiling for countless hours on a painting and finally completing it, we are so eager to share it with the world that we often rush through the most important part of the process – photography. Like framing, photographing your artwork is an important aspect that determines how successful you will be in getting it exhibited in galleries or selling it.

But this is easier said than done. One option is to hire a professional photographer, but what do you do if you can’t afford one? Well, why not give it a shot yourself? Bear in mind though that the photos of your work should be as high quality and professional as the artwork itself. 

We often invest in a wide range of photography equipment, from simple cameras to expensive DSLRs but not all of us are skilled at photography. Most of us struggle with common issues like uneven lighting, incorrect colors, and glares and shadows. If you are still a novice at photography, a smart phone will work just as well enabling you to take professional images of your art. I myself am not a professional photographer so I make regular use of my iPhone to document my work. Here are a few tips and tricks that I use to get the best out of my phone and help me get some great shots.

Preparing for photography

  • Make sure your smart phone is fully charged. You will need it to take multiple shots before you get the perfect one!
  • If you are clicking indoors, turn off artificial lights and open the curtains to let in natural light. If you are outdoors, select a shaded area to avoid glare. A cloudy day would be ideal.
  • Clear any clutter in the room and around the painting to enable you to take clean and tidy photos from various angles or distances.
  • Set up your smart phone on a tripod (if you have one). This will avoid all those blurred clicks.
  • Set up your artwork on an easel, wall or flat on the floor as you deem appropriate.
  • Use clear tape to tape your artwork to a wall if it’s on paper.
  • Keep a grey cloth handy to serve as a backdrop if there’s no bare wall.

How to take a shot

  • Taking shots in natural light will bring out the true colors of your painting accurately. You can hang your canvas on a wall outside away from direct sunlight to avoid any reflection and take a shot holding your phone vertically. Alternately, you can place it on the floor next to an open door and stand directly over it to click. This way the light outside the door will be your natural source.
  • If you own a tripod, now is the time to use it. If not, just stand or sit still with your elbows against your body and take the picture. You can also try propping the camera on something solid. This will prevent your shots from getting blurred. Take several shots as some will be out of focus or blurry.
  • Ensure that the camera is vertical, i.e., the lens should line up with the artwork and not tilted. The key is making sure the angle of your painting and the angle of your phone are the same otherwise you will get a distorted perspective of your painting. Most phones, especially the iPhone provide the grid function in their camera settings that can help align your phone to the object being photographed. You can use it for shooting an artwork on the wall as well as one placed on the floor.

How to avoid glare with Smartphone

I always make it a point to photograph my work before it’s framed. That way, I can avoid reflections formed on the glass or Plexiglas on top. Even so, sometimes the natural sheen of the artworks, especially in case of oil paintings can lead to reflections. If for some reason you have to photograph your work after framing, here are a couple of options:  

  • Use polarizer filters, specifically the linear and circular ones. They are especially helpful in taking photos of a framed artwork as they reduce the light reflected on top. They also make the colors more vibrant. Just pick up the right ones for your smart phone lens.
  • Being a novice at photography, I have no clue about filters so the next best option for me is to take my shots from different angles. This requires repeated adjustments and tons of patience as I have to keep moving to different positions until the glare is no longer visible.
  • Another reason for a glare or a reflection is the flash of your camera which is reflected straight back into the lens resulting in a glare so it’s best to turn off the flash.

The best time to take photos outside is when it’s overcast as the cloud cover acts like a giant diffuser — like the umbrellas photographers use — so that the light is uniformly distributed and the artwork is evenly lit. If it’s not cloudy outside or you can’t find the perfect shaded spot, you can get two lights of the same power and color and place them halfway between the camera and the canvas at a 45-degree angle pointing toward the artwork (this will help eliminate shadows and reflections on the painting). This is what it should look like:

  • You can also use a translucent plastic bag or a white sheet as a cheap diffuser by hanging it over the light making it softer and less direct. Just make sure you don’t do this on hot lights!

Editing your photos

Most phones come with basic photo editing options but for editing finer details, you can download a photo editing app on your phone or on your computer. Some commonly used ones are Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed, Moment app, Picsart etc. While Photoshop is still the most popular, Photoshop Elements or Gimp allow basic functions such as color correction, cropping, and other minor adjustments. Here are the features that you need to correct in your image:

  • Correct the colors in your image if you feel they don’t match the ones in your original artwork. This can be done using “color correction,” “color balance,” “temperature,” or “tint” options on your phone. You can also adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation of your colors.
  • Crop the image so that your artwork fills the image and is devoid of anything distracting in the background
  • Resize your image if required and save it with the appropriate dimensions and resolution in jpeg format.

There are several other professional tricks that can be practiced to improve your photographs so this is just a starting point.  I hope these shooting tips will be of some help and make photographing your art enjoyable!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions. I am not a professional photographer so the tips I have shared below are merely suggestions. Please hire a professional photographer for more professional results.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/4-steps-to-photographing-your-art-like-a-professional

https://dgillart.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/photographing-artwork/

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Art for a Cause

“You give but little when you give of possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Creating art can not only be satisfying, but also makes us ponder and reflect about pressing issues. This is why art created to raise awareness for a cause can work wonders. It can awaken powerful and lasting emotions that consequently lead to positive action. Most artists make use of this power not just to express themselves, but also to make a statement, or contribute towards a cause.

The mere creation of an artwork aimed at creating awareness or towards a charity has a positive impact. It’s always a pleasurable experience to be associated with nonprofit organizations and other charities that are making a difference.

Artists help charities in many ways depending on their personal choices and artistic skills. One doesn’t always need to create foundations, donate big pieces of art. When it comes to painting for a cause, the sky is the limit and no contribution is too big or small. Here are a few ways through which artists can make a difference:

  • Collaborate with charities that share a common belief or work for a common cause. Paint murals for them to create awareness.
  • Create awareness through your art about current issues like environment, health care, poverty, homelessness, animals, women’s issues, peace etc.
  • Conduct workshops in hospitals, libraries, museums, clubs, neighborhood religious and cultural groups.
  • Raise funds for the charities you collaborate with by offering a percentage of proceeds from the sales of your art through an auction or raffle.
  • Volunteer for an art therapy workshop. This will be especially beneficial for those struggling with emotional and stress related issues.

I have personally experienced the contentment and satisfaction that comes with creating art for a cause and contributing it towards the betterment of the society. It gives me great pleasure to share with you that some of the artworks from my recent COVID-19 series are up for exhibit and sale through the online Facebook portal of the art gallery, Nero Art Hub (www.neroarthub.com). A percentage of the sales from this series will go towards charity. Here are the artworks that are on display:

Another contribution of mine is an artwork from my Navrasa series titled Veerangana – The Unsung Heroes. I contributed this towards an online exhibition to commemorate Kargil Vijay Diwas conducted by Youth For Parivarthan, a non-profit organization. The painting is my tribute to not just the fallen soldiers of the Kargil War but also their families, who live on bravely with just their memories to hold on to. Here’s the artwork followed by the links to the exhibition:

(https://www.facebook.com/YouthForParivarthan.Official/photos/pcb.2833925406821188/2833924936821235/?type=3&theater&ifg=1

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDHCBADgnF-/ (scroll through the images to see my artwork).

Many artists have used their talents to help create awareness for a cause or contribute towards charity. You can do it too. All you need to do is find the cause that touches your heart and inspires you enough to create something artistic. In the words of Seth Godin –

“Art is an original gift, a connection that changes the recipient, a human ability to make a difference. Art isn’t a painting or even a poem, it’s something that any of us can do. If you interact with others, you have the platform to create something new — something that changes everything. I call that art.”

The Healing Power of Art

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Our world is currently in the grip of a nerve-racking pandemic, COVID – 19. Stress and anxiety have always affected people but with the uncontainable proliferation of this global contagion, more people than ever before seem to be falling prey to these demons.  People are now not only suffering from stress related to money and work but also having to deal with the adverse effects of anxiety caused by this deadly microbe.

So how does one handle these nerves? Here’s how I do it….I use the healing power of art. For me, art is therapeutic. It helps me tide over all those anxious moments that are eating away into my mental and emotional well being. Art therapy can prove to be profoundly helpful in dealing with not just the present day stressful environment of the pandemic ridden world, but also help relieve workplace anxiety.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of therapy based on the belief that artistic expression has the power to heal our self-esteem and help us relax. Unlike other forms of therapy that rely on language as the foremost mode of communication, art requires something different, something unspoken.

How does it work?

Intensively focusing on an activity like creating art can relieve stress by distracting and refocusing the mind elsewhere. Art therapy can enable you to express what you feel without putting it into words and releases the anger, unhappiness or any other emotion within. You don’t necessarily need to be an artist to experience the therapeutic effects of art therapy. You can reap the emotional benefits of your artistic endeavors without having to worry about the aesthetic outcome. The mere satisfaction of creating something with your own hands will lift your spirits. Once you are done with your creation, you can look back at it and get an insight into the cause of your stress and figure out ways to avoid it.

What are the techniques involved?

Here are some suggestions that I personally found useful and interesting. Ideally, art therapy is best practiced under the guidance and support of an art therapist, so do consult one if my ideas don’t seem to help. Some of the images here are my own creations that have proved therapeutic for me in way or another. Others are purely for reference purposes.

  • Display your emotions on canvas

One technique is to segregate your negative emotions from the positive ones by drawing and painting them onto a canvas. All you need to do is divide a canvas into two, in one section draw and paint your negative feelings and on the other half paint and draw feelings that make you happy. This exercise will help you replace your negative sentiments with positive thoughts, thereby releasing any stress or apprehensions.

A display of my emotions on canvas
  • Digital Mediums

Another means of practicing art therapy is through digital mediums. All you need is an iPad or tablet, a stylus and any good drawing app like Adobe Photoshop Sketch or Autodesk Sketchbook. The best part about digital art therapy is that it’s easy to erase and start over! Another benefit of using digital medium is it increases concentration, focus as well as self-esteem, especially for children with autism.

A therapeutic digital creation of mine

·        Design a postcard you don’t intend to send

Sometimes illustrating all those pent up feelings about something or someone in the form of a postcard can helps deflate the problem. Designing the postcard allows you to activate different parts of your brain and helps it to relax. Once all the negativity is out on the card, you’ll find that it has lost its power to some extent.

Therapy through postcards (Reference image)

·        Cut and paste a painting to create a collage

Recreate a new artwork form a previously done painting by cutting it up and re-sticking it together in the form of a collage. This activity will motivate you to take risks and push yourself not just creatively but also in life.

Therapy through collage making (Reference image)

·        Create art in the dark

Creating art in total darkness frees you from that judgmental mind of yours that compels you to self critic your work. This in turn will also relieve the stress that comes with the judgment and criticism you have to face in other aspects of your life. You will be pleasantly surprised to see sides of yourself you never thought existed when you turn the lights on!

  • Try Mandala and Zentangle art

Zentangle and Mandala Art can prove to be extremely relaxing and therapeutic owing to their meditative qualities.  Both encourage deliberate, ritual creation and allow room for human error as no erasing is allowed. The entire process can be done in about 15 minutes and can be practiced whenever you want to.

·        Color therapy

Color has the ability to affect our moods and can be used to transform our state of mind. Colors can also provide an insight into your emotional state. By cutting and pasting images with colors that symbolize your current mood (for example red or orange if you are angry) can help you figure out why you’re feeling that way and work your way out of the mood.

Color therapy (Reference image)

·        Doodling

Doodling can be a very effective form of therapy as it allows your feelings and sentiments to flow out uninhibited. The possibilities are endless and ever interconnected line, mark or shape adds on to your story. It’s like you are pouring your heart out onto the paper which will eventually make you feel lighter and calmer.

·        Make a self portrait

Creating a self portrait of yourself from your past memories helps you recall the person you were and how you have transformed and grown with time. It makes you reminisce on your good as well as bad sides and shows you that you can change for the better.

Therapy through elf portraits (Reference image)

The best part of art therapy is that you can express yourself and vent out your sentiments without uttering a word. It can help you transform your negative energy into something positive – a piece of art. That’s why I love art. Not only is it expressive, it also heals.

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Some data is based on my personal experiences and opinions. As mentioned earlier on in the post, I am not a professional art therapist and the techniques I have shared below are merely suggestions. Do consult and practice art therapy under the guidance and support of a qualified art therapist.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/art-therapy-techniques_n_56562017e4b072e9d1c19f9b?ri18n=true

https://www.artitout.com/single-post/2014/12/04/Using-the-Feelings-Wheel

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The “Mood” of Your Art

One of the tools that’s always helped me plan out my artworks is a ‘mood board’. In fact before I discovered mind mapping, creating a mood board was a precursor to each of my paintings. Being a Fashion Design graduate I remember using mood boards a lot for various projects at my design college and it’s this practice that I have carried forward to my art as well.

But do artists really use mood boards? Yes! They aren’t “mood boards” per say, but more like collages of pictures and or small objects created to express the “mood,” of a concept or theme. A typical mood board is an amalgamation of images, fonts, colors, and textures defining the theme of the work. It comes in many forms and might even be called something different depending on the industry that you’re in.

How does it help?

A mood board is a visual means for artists to keep track of what inspires them thereby keeping their creative thoughts and ideas aligned.   In art the possibilities are endless, so having a gentle way to keep you aligned can be a big help. This can be done in sketchbooks too, but they are often forgotten in a bag or abandoned in some shelf, but a mood board is a big visual that can’t be overlooked once it has been put up on display in your studio. If you feel stuck, you have a tangible object to come back to and rekindle your ideas, perhaps see what’s missing or where you were stuck and figure out a way to move on. 

How to begin…

There is no hard and fast rule for starting your mood board but here’s how I do it. I like to begin with images and lots of them! It can be anything that expresses the idea or theme I intend working with. Then comes the writing, which helps put my thoughts into words – essentially keywords that pop up in my mind about the concept behind my idea.

So how is it different from a Mind Map?

The thing about a mind map is that it’s more words than pictures. You start with a single word that describes your idea. Then you keep adding more words or phrases in the form of branches and sub branches. Keep following this spider web of branches and you will keep pushing your ideas further. This can be challenging, but being more specific will help your ideas. Some people do add images to their mind maps but as I said, it’s more about words. On the other hand, a mood board is primarily visual and images doing most of the talking.

What should you put on it?

Almost anything, but here are some examples:

  • Images from magazines – All those colorful and ‘artistic’ visuals and adverts from fashion magazines work well for backgrounds. Travel magazines can be a good source of interesting textures and shapes.
  • Fabric strips – Though this applies more for design projects, for an artist they can be a good source of colors and textures.
  • Colour swatches – Either from paint sample charts, or paint your own. Although I am personally not in favor of this as I feel it restricts an artist’s color range, so I like to leave this one out.
  • Images of other artists’ work – What is it about them that inspires you and how can you incorporate this inspiration into your own work?
  • Photos from your sketchbook.

Even though it’s a mood board, I do throw in a few words here and there just to add on to the visuals. If you are creating a mood board by hand you can cut out letters from magazines, use a stamp, print using your favorite font on your computer or just write by hand. If it’s a digital mood board then get innovative with all those lovely fonts on your computer!

Where should you display it?

I like to place my mood somewhere close to my painting so that it’s readily available for me to draw inspiration from. Ideally it should be somewhere near your work table in your studio or better still, take a photo with your phone and use it as your screensaver!

How to go about it….

·       Come up with an idea – Go through any ideas you may have in your mind. Browse through your sketchbooks and pictures on your phone for inspiration. Look up books and search Google to ignite that spark.

·       Research – Whether you’re making a physical mood board or a digital one do your research online or at a library, to collect as much material as possible.

·       Organize your thoughts and material – Spread out all your material and organize it systematically so that everything falls into place in accordance with your idea or concept. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit in.

·       Put it all together – Once you are sure of your layout and placement, stick everything in place (in case of a physical mood board).

·       Use a mood board app for creating a digital mood boardGoMoodboard is one of the most popular online mood board apps. With no account required, simply click and drag images onto your project to create a mood board.

Here’s a mood board for a painting that I am going to be starting soon – based on Adbhuta rasa (the emotion of wonder). I used Adobe Photoshop to do this one.  It’s not an exact blueprint for the painting, but just a representation of the concept and ideas I wish to express through the final artwork. I had shared a mind map for this very artwork in an earlier post. Do check it out as well to see the difference!

The mood board for my next project

A Tour of My Sketchbook

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I have a confession to make. I have never been the type to maintain a proper sketchbook. More or less all my sketches are done directly on the canvas or the paper that will eventually end up being the final artwork. But lately I have realized that sketchbooks are a great way for artists to practice and fine tune their art. The sketches and doodles you create in your sketchbook are essentially the seeds of your creative thoughts and ideas that will ultimately sprout and grow into your masterpieces.

The alliance between an artist and his or her sketchbook can take a number of forms — a daily log of inspiration, a blueprint for an upcoming artwork, or an outlet for expressing his or her thoughts. No matter what form it takes, it will have a definitive impact on the artist’s creative process. This creative process plays an important role in an artist’s attempts to successfully execute a concept. Essentially, your sketchbook can be your verbal and or visual medium of expression.

Benefits of a Sketchbook

Maintaining a sketchbook has a lot of benefits.If you ever feel uninspired or want to track your progress, you can glance back at your old sketchbooks to see how you have evolved. You can also refer to them to determine your style. It can help you preserve your ideas for posterity. It is a handy way of recording all your observations and learning from real life. Keeping a sketchbook is a great way to explore new avenues and venture into seemingly unchartered territories.
Being a storehouse of inspiration, sketchbooks keep motivating us to hone our skills every time we glance through them. The more we practice the better results we get and the further we move along in our creative journey.

How to get the most out of your Sketchbook

  • Log the date every time you start working in a sketchbook so that you can monitor your progress. This can be extremely motivating especially when you have an artist’s block.
  • Carry a compact sketchbook whenever you are out and about so that you can document your ideas as soon as you come across something that inspires you. Sometimes great ideas are easily forgotten once the inspiration is out of sight. So having them safely recorded in your sketchbook makes them available for the future.
  • There is a sketchbook for every medium, whether it is oils, watercolors, gouache, pencil, pen and ink or mixed media. All you need to do is get hold of the right one.
  • Jot down notes and self critic your work about the subject, concept and technique for the artwork at hand.  This will contribute greatly to your growth as an artist. 
  • Don’t try to be perfect.
    Your sketchbook is a place for you to explore and learn. It’s your personal space where you are free to mess around. After all, great art comes out of a mess!  Just relax and enjoy the process!

I have come to realize that a sketchbook is even more important than the final piece as it displays all the work you have put in to get to where you are today. It also made me realize that sometimes working directly onto the canvas doesn’t necessarily get you the outcome you expect.

Since this realization has dawned upon me, I have tried to make a conscious effort to fill up that sketchbook of mine that has been lying in a state of neglect for years. There was a time when I used to sketch in it before I got down to working on my canvas but over time I seem to have overlooked this step. These simple pencil sketches they made me aware of my evolution as an artist and thus motivated me to pick up the habit once again.

So now it will be my constant endeavor to document my ideas first and foremost in my precious sketchbook before I execute them onto the canvas or the final surface. I may even go one step ahead and explore new techniques and mediums within the sketchbook itself. Even though my sketchbook is still work in progress and my personal space, I wouldn’t mind giving you all a peek into it. So here are a few glimpses of some scribblings and doodles from the past. Hope you enjoy them!

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My First Mind Map

Last week I had published a post about mind mapping. This one is an extension of that, wherein I have delved into the intriguing world of mind maps and attempted to organize the whirlwind of ideas storming my brain into something meaningful.

The mind map displayed in this post is a precursor to my next painting which is part of my long pending Navrasa Series covering the 9 basic human emotions (refer to previous posts to view the series). The emotion I will be depicting next is called “Adbhuta Rasa” which in simpler terms means “wonder” and “amazement.” This one has been a huge challenge for me as it’s not easy depicting an emotion as profound as wonder. It is something that we feel and express on a daily basis and it knows no bounds. Anything and everything can become a cause of wonder for the human mind. So the question I asked myself while working this one out was what is the greatest wonder for the human race?

Without going too much into detail about the concept behind this artwork, here’s a draft of my thoughts and ideas that I have plotted graphically using an online mind mapping app called Ayoa (https://app.ayoa.com/).  So let my mind map do the talking! (Click on the link below the image to view the map in detail)

My mind map for “Adbhuta Rasa” (Wonder)Click on link below to view in detail

Mind Mapping for Art

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Having trouble organizing your artistic thoughts and ideas? Have your creative musings become a tangled mess? Want to harmonize your aesthetic reflections and transform them into your artistic expressions?  

Artist and inventor, Leonardo da Vinci, said, “Everything is connected to everything else.”

Most artists commence their creative process by brainstorming possible concepts or themes for their artworks. Sometimes ideas pop up inside our heads one after the other so rapidly, that it becomes almost impossible to keep track or to retain them in our memories. At times like these, when our thoughts are in a clutter, we need to document them in a systematic and organized manner so that we can see clearly through the chaos.

When our multi-dimensional thinking triggers a tsunami of ideas and listing these down in a sequence becomes a daunting task, a Mind Map can help by rounding up, organizing and recording them graphically as well as visually. 

What is a mind map?

Mind map creator Tony Buzan coined the term ‘mind map’ to refer to a diagram that has a branch or root-like structure radiating from a central image on the page, and which uses lines and colour to show relationships, groupings and connections between words, ideas and images. A mind map helps one to think out of box by ensuring that a wide range of possibilities are considered, thereby bringing clarity of thought.

mind map is nothing but a graphic organizer that uses a diagram to visually organize ideas and concepts. The main idea or concept is placed in the center of the diagram, and then related ideas are added to it in a radial fashion.   It is a visual thinking tool that structures information, helping you to better analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall and generate new ideas. Just as in every great idea, its power lies in its simplicity.

How to make a mind map

Tony Buzan has set official guidelines for drawing a mind map on the ThinkBuzan website. These include:

  • Using a landscape format.
  • Starting with a central image in the middle of your page to represent your main concept or theme.
  • Using curving lines to add branches to the centre that represent secondary ideas with respect to the main concept and then connecting these to smaller branches representing topics describing and extending these ideas in detail; use single words and images.
  • Adding colours doodles and symbols for aesthetic and organizational purposes as well as making the mind map more effective.
  • Using short topic and sub topic headings. A single word or better yet, a picture or image will work best.
  • Varying text size, color and alignment. Vary the thickness and length of the lines to provide as many visual cues as you can to emphasize important points. Every little bit helps in engaging your brain and unlocking its creative potential.

A mind map can have different formats such as a tree diagram, spider diagram – or even just a flurry of thoughts on paper, as long as it displays the possibilities for a central concept.

Some Creative Mind Map Ideas

Here are some interesting and innovative minds maps created by artists(click on thumbnails to view full image) :

Advantages of Mind Mapping

Mind mapping increases creativity and productivity by helping you come up with more unique ideas in lesser time and also improves your brain’s cognitive powers. It opens your mind while brainstorming and gets rid of hurdles posed by linear thinking. It’s a great way to sort out and link up the ideas you have brainstormed on a single page as all the data is visually available at a glance. It can even lead to the triumphant discovery of relationships between seemingly unrelated topics.

Disadvantages of Mind Mapping

Inspite of all the benefits, mind mapping has some disadvantages too. If you are a left brained or logical person, radial thinking is predominant. While brainstorming you need to be intuitive so as to allow ideas to flow freely. This is tough as logic tells them it’s not possible. Moreover, mind maps can become too complicated if not structured well, making them difficult to understand. Another setback with a mind map is that in order to comprehend it completely, active participation is required as it involves a step by step process while structuring it so it might be a little difficult for people who did not go through the process themselves to make sense of the mind map. But the good news is all these problems can be fixed!

Mind mapping is such an extensive concept that this post just about covers the tip of the iceberg. I personally find the entire idea of mind mapping extremely intriguing and would love to give it a shot for my future artworks. Hope you all are also inspired to try it out as well!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

https://www.studentartguide.com/articles/how-to-make-a-mindmap-creative-ideas

https://litemind.com/what-is-mind-mapping/

Let’s get Digital!

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The 21st century is the age of digital advancement where technology has completely revolutionalized the world. This digital revolution has also penetrated the world of art and transformed the way artists think, create and innovate. The art world is no longer confined within the four walls of galleries and museums, but is chartering new territories of its own into the cyber world. Digital technology has not just opened up new avenues for artists, it has also changed the entire outlook towards art. The impact of digital technology has greatly altered activities such as painting, drawing and even sculpture. From digital painting, to illustration and even photography, it has affected how art is created as well as presented.

But what is digital art?  It is the practice of creating works of art that are computer generated, scanned or drawn using a tablet or mouse. This includes digitally manipulated videos as well as photographs.

Digital illustration or computer illustration is the use of digital tools to produce images, usually through a pointing device such as a mouse. A mouse may not be very precise for drawing, so a graphics tablet is a better tool for a digital illustrator, because it allows the user to make marks that look more like the natural lines made by the human hand. Moreover, the pressure-sensitive surface, allows for faint to bold and thin to broad marks. These variations mimic traditional wet and dry media.

There are two main types of tools used for digital illustration: bitmapped (or “raster”) and vector applications. Bitmap applications are commonly called “painting” programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, while vector applications like Adobe Illustrator are called “drawing” programs.

Digital painting is an art form in which traditional painting techniques such as watercolor, oils, impasto, etc. are applied using digital tools (software) on a computer or a graphics tablet using a mouse or stylus respectively. All digital painting programs have digital brushes for traditional styles like oils, acrylics, pastels, charcoal, pen and even airbrushing.

Digital painting software such as Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop, ArtRage, GIMP, Krita and OpenCanvas give artists a similar environment to a physical painter – a canvas, painting tools, mixing palettes, and a multitude of color options. There are various types of digital painting, including impressionism, realism, and watercolor.

Advantages of Digital Art

  • More efficient – Easier to get started and work quickly.
  • More forgiving – Nothing is permanent when you have the undo button.
  • More exploration – Unlimited experimental possibilities.
  • Easier duplication – Ideal for working with clients.
  • Equipment/Materials – Ease of working in an organized, mess-free environment
  • Instant Sharability – Because digital art is already stored on a digital device, it is easier for artists to share their work in its highest form either on websites or through social media instantly.

There are some drawbacks also of digital painting. Some argue there will always be more control for an artist holding a physical brush in their hand. Others believe the character that is unique to physically made art is missing from digital painting.

Here are some of the best drawing apps:

  • Adobe Illustrator Draw.
  • Adobe Photoshop Sketch.
  • ArtFlow.
  • MediBang Paint.
  • Infinite Painter.
  • Autodesk SketchBook.
  • PaperColor.
  • DotPict.
  • Procreate.

The world of digital art is like a virtual simulation of the real art world. Digital art has changed not just how artists can express their creativity, but also how the audiences experience art. It is ever changing so is still in its nascent stage, but with time it will surely grow and mature into a fully developed art form. The day is not far away when the seemingly unorganized and random digital art world paves a definitive path for itself. The future holds the defining moments for digital art.

Here are a couple of my own explorations with digital art. Still getting a hang of it but I am loving it!!

Art for Art’s Sake

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Heard of the phrase “Art for Art’s Sake?” It is a simple expression for the philosophy that “true” art is divorced from any didactic, moral, or utilitarian function. The basic idea is that art is by definition aesthetical and thus can have no other purpose. In addition, art’s role is not to educate or to enlighten someone. It exists just for itself.

Oscar Wilde is considered the father of aesthetics. The phrase l’art pour l’art (“art for art’s sake”) was coined by the philosopher Victor Cousin, in 1818. According to him and several other philosophers of the century, social and political themes are irrelevant and should not be used in art making unless they render the final product “beautiful”.

This approach to art was elucidated in the 19th century by the Aesthetic Movement that promoted pure beauty and aesthetic values by accentuating visual and sensual qualities of art rather than practical, socio-political, moral or narrative considerations. So art from this movement didn’t give emphasis to deeper meaning.

History and Origin

The aesthetic movement flourished in Britain in the 1870s and 1880s. In painting it was exemplified by J.M. WhistlerAlbert Moore and certain works by Frederic, Lord Leighton. Japanese art and culture was an important influence, especially on Whistler and aesthetic design. Aestheticism shared certain affinities with the French Symbolist movement, fostered the Arts and Crafts Movement, and sponsored Art Nouveau. From 1875 the ideals of aestheticism were commercialized by the Liberty store in London, which later also popularized Art Nouveau.

The movement began in reaction to prevailing utilitarian social philosophies and to what was perceived as the ugliness and philistinism of the industrial age. In England, the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, from 1848, had sown the seeds of Aestheticism, and the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, and Algernon Charles Swinburne exhibited it and expressed a yearning for ideal beauty through conscious medievalism. The painter James McNeill Whistler raised the movement’s ideal of the cultivation of refined sensibility to perhaps its highest point.

The roots of Aestheticism can be traced back to the 1860’s; however, it was not until the 1880’s that the movement gained noticeable popularity. The Aesthetic movement is often associated with the French term fin de siècle,” or the “end of the century,” which refers to the closing of an existing era and implies the beginning of a new one. It is often used to describe late 19th century Britain, a time when the ideals of the Victorian Age were losing precedence and being replaced by Aesthetic values. The Aesthetic movement denounced the sober morality and middle-class values that characterized the Victorian Age and embraced beauty as the chief pursuit of both art and life.

The Aesthetic Movement provided a challenge to the Victorian public when it declared that art was divorced from any moral or narrative content. In an era when art was supposed to tell a story, the idea that a simple expression of mood or something merely beautiful to look at could be considered a work of art was radical. In its assertion that a work of art can be divorced from narrative, the ideas of the Aesthetic Movement paved the road towards Modern Art. The movement is often considered to have ended with Oscar Wilde’s trials, which began in 1895.

Modern Day Aestheticism

Although aestheticism emerged more than 150 years ago, it’s still active today and very powerful too. Every time an art movement rejects pure aesthetical approach towards art, supporters of aestheticism raise their voices, questioning the quality of such art. So, aestheticism is not some art movement that existed in history and disappeared into oblivion – it’s still alive.

There are no specific names from the world of contemporary art today that would fit into the genre of aestheticism because artists usually tend to distance themselves from this movement. Apparently majority of contemporary artists reject basic principles and ideas of aestheticism.

Still, the movement is quite vivid, particularly its intellectual side. If we take a look at the contemporary art scene, we will see that the vast majority of pieces that are popular could not be labeled as products of aestheticism. In my personal opinion there are enough artists who create art with the sole purpose of making something beautiful without any deeper meaning behind it. Here are a few of my favorite art pieces which I feel fit the bill of aesthetic art. I hope you all will appreciate them for their sheer beauty as much as I do!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/aesthetic-movement

https://www.britannica.com/art/Aestheticism

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/victorian-art-architecture/pre-raphaelites/a/the-aesthetic-movement

https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/abstract-illusionism

Pros and Cons of Watermarks

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Posting artworks online is an economical as well as appealing way for artists to spread their art far and wide. But is it safe? By putting it out there, are you not offering it to anyone and everyone to claim as their own? There have been umpteen stories about artists’ works being copied or claimed by others as their own. Copyright infringement is a reality.

But the big question is do they still own the copyright to the images once they have posted them online? The answer is yes. You own the copyright to your work as soon as you have created it. So what can you do to protect your copyright? Should you post thumbnail images only? Should you paste watermarks over them so nobody can reproduce or copy your work? Or should you attach copyright notices with each and every image? Today’s post is my attempt to answer all these questions and many more, but be warned, these are my personal inputs so if in doubt, seek legal advice.

To Watermark or Not?

Adding a small watermark to your images is a good way of sending the message that they are not up for grabs. It reminds people of the fact that they cannot use your images without your permission. When they come across your work on the internet, a watermark will point out the fact that it is not theirs. On the flipside, a watermark can have its cons too. If it’s too big or overpowering, it can ruin your work of art or at the least distract from it. So tread with caution.

What should a Watermark look like?  

A watermark can be your company’s name, your personal name, or your logo. It should be as subtle as possible. A good watermark is one that doesn’t distract from your image. If it is too big, it will cover your artwork and your friends and patrons will not be able to see it. Standard practice is to keep it fairly small, place it in the bottom right corner and keep the opacity at 50% or less.  That way it is semi transparent yet visible and doesn’t distract from the image.

What should be the Size of your Images?

It is generally recommended to post small images online to prevent theft as these will become blurred when enlarged hence making it impossible to copy or reproduce. However, too small an image will not do justice to your work. At the same time, large image files also slow down your website. So the best option is to optimize your file as well as image size.

Do Watermarks really protect?

A simple watermark placed in a corner can easily be cropped out of your image by thieves so it is not a good enough protection against piracy. However, a full image watermark, the kind that stock photography companies use to protect images can serve as protection as it subtly covers the entire image and cannot be removed without wrecking the picture itself. But this comes with a cost as it takes away from your image.

My Watermark

While I don’t watermark my images in the literal sense, I have devised a tactic that serves as a watermark in its own unique way. Since my objective was to watermark my images in my personalized style at the same time serve as a subtle reminder of my copyright and prevent theft, I thought what better option than my signature itself!  So here’s what I do. I just sign my painting strategically and discreetly in such a way that my signature is placed somewhere in the middle of the artwork and not in a corner. This way, my signature serves as my watermark but since it kind of blends into the composition it is difficult to remove without spoiling the image itself. Killing two birds with one stone don’t you think? Here are images of some of my paintings with my signature as my watermark.

Whether you decide to watermark your images or not is totally your choice. Where and what kind of watermark you wish to plaster on your work is also your decision. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t spoil the images but lets people know that you own them.  If you decide not to use watermarks, a copyright notice in the footer can also serve the purpose. More importantly, let your fans enjoy your work.

A Symphony of Light and Ice

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Ever seen a flaming halo of colors splashed across the bright blue sky? This extremely rare yet enthralling phenomenon, commonly known as a “Fire Rainbow” is neither myth nor fantasy but a marvel of nature in reality. It is an alluring arch of vibrant colors draped around a select few clouds floating around in the wild blue yonder.

But the term fire rainbow is actually a misnomer, for this luminous crown of colors adorning the pristine white tufts in the sky is not a rainbow at all. It is an optical anomaly, scientifically and more accurately termed as a Circumhorizontal Arc and is formed by the refraction of sunlight (or moonlight) on ice crystals in cirrus and cirrostratus clouds. Simply put, it’s caused by sunlight shining through tiny ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.

Fire rainbows are formed when the sun rises above 58 degrees in the sky and shines through the right type of cloud at a certain angle lighting up the sky with a riot of colors. When light enters the cloud’s hexagonal ice crystals vertically and leaves them horizontally, the 90 degrees change causes it to separate into the rainbow spectrum. But light needs to come through very specific crystals at a very specific angle, and that’s why this event is pretty rare.

How often a circumhorizontal arc is seen, depends on the location and the latitude of the observer. You’ll never see one at latitude greater than 55 degrees north or south – because at those latitudes, the sun simply isn’t high enough. At other latitudes the solar circumhorizontal arc is visible, for a greater or lesser time, around the summer solstice.

Today’s artwork, titled “A Symphony of Light and Ice” is inspired by this marriage between scientific rarity and artistic sensibility. This is my soft pastel rendering of the extraordinary yet exceptional marvel of nature.  

My soft pastel rendering of a fire rainbow

Humans work so hard to bring beauty into this world. We can pen down epic verses and classic tales, compose melodic symphonies and paint memorable masterpieces, but none of these can ever match the beauty and splendor of the cosmos. Perhaps it’s the rarity of this optical phenomenon that makes it so beautiful. Hope you enjoyed my artwork!

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Out of Stock?!

In the current unprecedented times of quarantine and isolation, artists all over the world are practicing art voraciously. People who would have never imagined putting a brush to paper have also taken advantage of lockdown and resorted to artistic endeavors in order to lift their spirits. Art is proving to be the silver lining to the dark, gloomy corona virus cloud. 

But what do you do when you are running out of canvas and paper during the lockdown? How do you replenish them when all but essential shopping has been forbidden? Many of us may be finding ourselves skimming through our dwindling art supplies, frantically hunting for ways and means to keep our art practice going, but little do we realize that what we need to engage with our creativity is probably tucked away somewhere in our home itself. 

I’m sure many of us are sailing in the same boat so here’s a quick guide that can perhaps help replace that rapidly depleting stock of art supplies and keep the creative process going. I have compiled some tips and tricks, mostly conceived by fellow artists who deserve a special mention in this post. Thank you all for your innovative inspirations! So go ahead, browse through, pick your favorite options and innovate!!  

  1. Paints – If you think you are the only ones running out of oil or watercolor paints, join the gang! Don’t sweat….your regular house paints can serve as a good option. But don’t forget to check whether they’re oil or water based before using them.
  2. Drawing material – Take stock of all your pencils, pens, markers, pastels, color pencils and other dry mediums that may be lying around in a state of neglect in your house. Every small bit of charcoal and chalk counts.
  3. Paper and Canvas – If you are anticipating a shortage of drawing and painting surfaces, make do with whatever is available at that time. It doesn’t matter if it’s small pieces of paper, a tiny sketch book or discarded canvases. Expressing your creative instincts is of prime importance.

Here are some options that some of my fellow artists have come up with to nourish and nurture their creative faculties:

  • Unsold or discarded paintings that are nothing but dead stock can be gessoed over and reused to create brand new artworks.
  • Different types of ornately printed paper, gift wrapping paper or even wall paper have great potential for collage and mixed media effects.
  • Newspaper and magazine pages are an awesome replacement for plain old boring paper. The fine print can add an extra element of interest to the subject sketched or painted on top if it complements the theme of the artwork. Picasso used to add his own characters on magazine photos.
  • Don’t get rid of all those grocery bills, corrugated packing sheets, brown paper, crinkled craft sheets, etc. They can prove to be valuable drawing and painting surfaces.
Aditi’s artwork on brown paper
  • Leftover pieces and planks of wood from your carpentry projects for home improvement can serve as a good replacement for canvas.
Swati’s ingenious recycling of a waste plank of wood
  • Dried leaves when painted on with acrylic paints can be transformed into beautiful works of art.

Stones and pebbles can be used as miniature canvases and painted over with acrylic paints or markers.

A word of caution…sometimes the materials you choose may not live up to your expectations and you may not achieve the desired results. Don’t fret too much at this point. It’s all about trial and error. After all, art is an enriching and learning experience and every mistake can become a precursor to a great masterpiece.  All you need to do is work your way around it and try something else. Another upside to using leftover material is that it can help open up new channels of creativity.

The key to innovative progress right now is to carefully consider what you have at the present moment and how it can be put to good use. Now’s the time to tests the limits of your creativity. Who knows? Maybe you’ll come up with something stunning with all those scraps of paper lying around in your house!

Acknowledgements and Credits –

As I had mentioned earlier, several of these ideas are the creative genius of my fellow artists. All the images featured in this post belong to these immensely talented “innovators” and I do not claim any of them as mine in any way. They deserve to be applauded for their resourcefulness and brilliance. I hereby acknowledge their skills and give them full credit for their contributions towards the enrichment of art. Thanks a ton Sheetal, Anannya, Swati and Aditi for your innovative improvisations. Cheers to your ingenuity!

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Lockdown Art – Labyrinth

The global COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the pause button for humanity and stopped the world in its tracks. It has brought all of us down on our knees, but as we struggle to cope with it, we are also slowly learning to live with it. Even though all over the world lockdowns and restrictions are being eased out progressively, it doesn’t mean that the virus is gone. Our respective governments may have granted us some relaxations, but COVID-19 hasn’t. This is a long-drawn battle and we should continue to be on the vigil and fight on till we defeat the enemy and emerge victorious.

Today I present to you “Labyrinth,” the last artwork of my Corona Series, as we embrace the “new world order” of a dangerous world in the midst of a perilous virus. This one is inspired by the most brilliant yet dangerous military formation in Indian mythology, the mythical “Chakravyuha.”

Labyrinth

To give a brief account of the Chakravyuha, it is a multi-tiered defensive formation chronicled in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. It is believed that it was a seven-layered circular maze where each of the layers is rotating in the same or opposite direction, with strategically placed weak and strong soldiers. The warriors at each interleaving position would be in an increasingly tough position to fight.  Each of the layers are presented with possible openings which are closely guarded by one of the main highly ranked warriors and his personal troops.

It is this brutal form of assault that I have adapted in my artwork as an attempt to depict all the strategies and tactics that are being implemented by us in order to keep the virus at bay. The Chakravyuha was not just an allegory or a physical labyrinthine disc, but a representation of a ferocious form of defense. This ring formation could hover across the battlefield and consume opponent soldiers from within, like a tornado or typhoon moving unhindered and destroying everything in its path.

Just like the Chakravyuha rotates on its axis as well as revolves in its trajectory, thus making it a great defensive as well as offensive mechanism, we too have devised a labyrinth of preventive and counter attacking measures that can be as impenetrable as the deadly Chakravyuha itself if implemented effectively. Each layer of this maze is our defense against the virus and their potency keeps becoming stronger as you move inwards. The innermost layer represents our ultimate defense against the virus – a vaccine. Even though we are still working on this aspect, I am sure the day is not far away when we will succeed in completing this layer of defense.

I have depicted the other six layers as our current lines of defense, namely, personal hygiene measures like washing hands, sanitization, etc., personal protective gear like gloves and masks, healthy eating to build up immunity, social distancing, quarantine/isolation and medical treatment for the infected. Together all these layers need to be set into motion, in unison, moving continuously across the COVID-19 warzone.

This spinning spiral of death can also be put into action as an offensive tactic to attack the seemingly invincible Corona virus from all sides. If we manage to enforce and carry out this plan incessantly, we stand a chance at defeating the fatal virus and ending the pandemic. All it requires is a collective effort from one and all so let us all stand together, for all of us are soldiers in this global war.

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Lockdown Art – Light at the End of the Tunnel

“Sometimes life seems a dark tunnel with no light at the end, but if you just keep moving forward, you will end up in a better place.”

In the current COVID-ridden times, we seem to be stuck in an endless tunnel of lockdowns and curfews. Just when we think the exit is around the corner, it seems to stretch on further at the very next turn. That’s exactly what’s happening presently, what with lockdowns being extended incessantly across the world.

The worldwide lockdown has changed our lives drastically, engulfing us in the darkness of uncertainty as we remain restricted within our four walled fortresses.  People all over the world are experiencing this darkness in varying forms, be it curfew, lockdown, isolation or quarantine.

This Global Lockdown is what I bring to you as an artwork in today’s blog entry, which is inspired by and named after the very phrase – “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” Another rendering in watercolor, it is a symbolic representation of the multiple lockdowns that our world is being subjected to in order to slow down the pandemic. I have used the contour of a keyhole to depict the dark cavernous tunnel of confinement. Each keyhole silhouette represents a lockdown phase and together all the contours collectively form the tunnel that we seem to be traversing through.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I have used the technique of perspective to illustrate the three dimensional view of a tunnel onto the two dimensional surface of a paper with an attempt to make it as natural and realistic as possible, at the same time creating an illusion of space and depth. The innermost keyhole signifies what lies beyond the tunnel – the light of hope. It’s this light that we need to see beyond the darkness of the seemingly never ending lockdowns, but to do so we have to travel all the way through the dark abyss with the faith that what lies at the end of the tunnel is the much needed relief of the confinements being eased.  This light gives us hope that the end is just around the corner.

The tunnel in my artwork symbolizes our journey through these dark times, which seems as gloomy as the path itself. We find ourselves entrapped in the darkness of this murky cavern unable to navigate our way ahead through the sufferings we encounter on the way. The only way to beat this darkness and get through to the other side is to divert our thoughts towards the light of positivity, thereby asserting our faith in the fact that respite in close at hand. We need to channelize and transform the gloom into our strength and illuminate our resilience to go through with the sojourn. To find the light at the end of the tunnel, advance through the darkness knowing that nothing lasts forever and this too shall pass. 

The light in my artwork also represents the hope-filled signs that this crisis will end soon. These signs include efforts of the likes of social-distancing, testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine which at least for now are helping us in controlling the spread, until effective treatments and vaccines can help us put the virus back in it’s box. I opted for a monochromatic grayscale color palette to render the contours of the tunnel as it represents how we view the world during the lockdown – in black and white.

In this global crisis of uncertainty and unpredictability, everything depends on the effectiveness of containment measures which can only attain their full potential when followed stringently. So let us all kindle the spark of positivity and help it guide us through to the end of the tunnel where the light awaits us. For –

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the way out is through.” — David Allen

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Lockdown Art – Battle Scars

As COVID-19 continues to march across the globe making every man, woman and child it comes across its prisoner, our gallant soldiers in white fight on relentlessly. Doctors, paramedics, nurses and health care workers all over the world stand their ground like a shield between us and the deadly virus. They form our front line defense in the battle against this silent and invisible enemy.  

Here’s another watercolor tribute to the tireless service being rendered by these courageous warriors, who have been selflessly caring for others day and night without giving a thought to their own safety and well-being. This artwork, like an earlier one of mine titled “Gods in White Capes”, is once again a salute to their grit and determination. Their dedication towards their duty and their conviction to save each and every life they are entrusted with are not just praise worthy but also inspiring.

Battle Scars

Words cannot do justice to the rigorous toil and sweat of our medics but it becomes evidently visible when they step out of their protective armor which conceals tales of their valor. Their undiluted courage can be seen in the impressions on their faces that have been left behind by the masks they are forced to wear round the clock. It is these marks of courage that I have highlighted in my rendition of our real life superheroes. These tell-tale marks are also witness to their noble service and are a constant reminder of the hardships they are willingly putting themselves through to safeguard the ailing and heal them back to health.

 These men and women knowingly choose to put their own lives in jeopardy to save lives that are on the line.  At times like these, when your own survival is at risk, it is difficult to think about others but these are the people who make it look easy. We are all indebted to these soldiers who choose to serve humanity over being with their near and dear ones.  Let us all remember their “Battle Scars” even after they fade away. Let them remind us to forever be grateful to these saviors for rising up to the challenge in these unprecedented times.  

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Lockdown Art – Tame the Curve

In today’s Covid-19 ridden world, the phrase “flattening the curve” is not just a figure of speech used to represent statistical data, but also one of the strategies we have adopted with the hope of containing the pandemic until a vaccine or effective treatment comes into existence.  It is our desperate attempt to delay the spread of the infection and keep our health care services within their operational capacity. That’s why countries all over the world are tirelessly working to flatten the curve.

I don’t think I need to go into the mathematical aspect of the phrase as I am sure most of us are well versed with it by now. So in a nutshell, flattening the curve implies reducing the number of new COVID-19 cases with time. This can take the load off our healthcare system to some extent and prevent it from becoming overwhelmed. When a country has lesser new COVID-19 cases appearing with every passing day, it’s a sign that the country is flattening the curve.

It is this metaphor and its pictorial representation that inspired me to create this week’s artwork once again through my new found love for watercolors. I know it’s an extremely abstract depiction so bear with me if it doesn’t come across to you at first glance!

My artwork – Tame the Curve

I have attempted to illustrate the COVID-19 trajectory on a conventional graph with its two slopes, the steeper one signifying the exponential rise in cases against time and a flatter one which represents what we are aiming at in order to sustain our health care systems. The face within the steeper curve symbolizes the suffering humanity has to endure if we do not contain the spread of the contagion. The mask within the flatter slope embodies all the measures we need to take to counter the infection and ensure that we limit its spread within the confines that can be handled by our health care systems and also succeed in flattening the curve.

The background of the artwork is also an abstract representation of a graph sheet that is used to plot a graph. I have used the technique of pattern doodling to create this backdrop. Now you all must be itching to know what’s the role of the sun that I have depicted here? Well this symbolizes the hope that we will beat this darkness and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Once again, I have rendered the sun using watercolors and further enhanced it through doodling.

This artwork is my personal expression of our need to do everything in our power to check the escalation of this deadly sickness.  This modern day plague is like a wild predator that has been unleashed on us and is devouring our health and well being. The only way we can ensure our survival is if we can restrain this beast, terminate it and send it to its grave, before it does the same to the entire human species. It’s almost as if we need to “tame” this monster, hence the title of my artwork – Tame the Curve.  So let’s all flatten the curve and save lives.

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Lockdown Art – One World

A deadly contagion has declared war on our world, afflicting us with illness and fatality. Every corner of the planet feels like a warzone as we make desperate attempts to combat the Corona virus with lockdowns, quarantine and isolation. As social distancing and staying home become the norm, we are slowly learning to acknowledge the importance of these actions in keeping us alive and kicking. 

In the face of this global health crisis we are seeing endless human suffering which is changing people’s lives for the worse. Mankind is traumatized and our social fabric is torn. People are worried and scared. We need to counter this atmosphere of fear and panic by recognizing and accepting the fact that we have only each other to ensure our survival. This is not the time to indulge in skin-deep, color based prejudices and fanaticism but to unite against our common faceless enemy. This human crisis calls for global solidarity and unification.

It is this thought that has inspired me to create a watercolor rendition that I call “One World.” Through this artwork I wish to convey that we are all in the same troubled waters so all the nations of the world need to come together and unify their forces as well as resources in order to successfully tackle COVID-19. I have attempted to express this by depicting all the nations as one single cityscape under the same skyline.

One World

Even though each country is trying its level best to address this worldwide epidemic in its own way, it is too complex a predicament to be handled individually. This demands combined action from the world leaders not just to help their own country but also look out for the less developed and more vulnerable ones. Universal coordination and cooperation are the need of the hour.

COVID-19 is the Trojan horse that has insidiously infiltrated the human operating system and is slowly shutting it down. The only antidotes we have against it come in the form of lockdown, quarantine, isolation and precautionary measures of the likes of social distancing, washing hands and wearing of masks. These countermeasures are being adopted globally hence I have highlighted some of them in my artwork.  As of now this is the only “antivirus” we have against the infection.

If our nations become more integrated in this battle full of uncertainties, the human race stands a chance of pulling through this dark time. So let us all come together in our fight against Corona virus even though we are miles apart. In these difficult times, Bob Marley’s legendary lyrics from “One Love” sound just right so signing off for now with a few lines from the song –

One love
One heart
Let’s get together and feel alright

One love
One heart
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel alright
Let’s get together and feel alright

Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (one love)
So when the Man come, there will be no no doom (one song)
Have pity on those whose chances grows thinner
There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of creation (sayin’)

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Lock-down Art – Home Safe Home

The world has been invaded by a minute yet potent entity that has ravaged the human race and brought it down to its knees. This unyielding adversary is the killer COVID-19 that has dramatically altered our lives in just a few months. Since the day this deadly pathogen declared war on humanity, we have been living in terror and what makes it worse is the fact that no-one knows when this war will end or who will be the victor or what our world will look like after it does.

The onslaught of this virulent microbe has radically changed the existing status of human civilization universally. Our hustling bustling world now looks empty and desolate. The streets are deserted, restaurants and cafes are closed for business, malls and department stores are shut and the once thriving tourist destinations are out of bounds for humanity.  Countries have closed their national as well as international borders, modes of long distance travel like air and rail have been suspended indefinitely and mandatory curfews or lock-downs have been imposed on any non-essential movement.

As the menacing corona virus infiltrates every street and alley, spreading its reach far and wide, it has turned our world upside down. Countless have succumbed to it and umpteen more continue to fall prey every day. People are dying in masses, health resources are stretched beyond their limits and the very foundation of our existence is under threat. The essence of our freedom is diminishing as we are forced to go into an unnatural hibernation, for this virus seems to know no barriers.  

Even so, humanity has not lost completely for thousands recover and beat the virus every day, so not all hope is lost. In this time of crisis, confinement and isolation are paramount for our wellbeing and eventual survival. ‘Stay Home’, is not just the current mantra, but also the need of the hour and a new way of life in the present day scenario. For how long you ask? For as long as it takes I say.

It is this mantra that inspired me to create this watercolor artwork titled “Home Safe Home”. In the present circumstances it becomes absolutely imperative for each and every one of us to stay indoors and follow all the lock-down rules. In order to defeat this deadly virus, we need to unite not just as a community or a race but as a species and limit ourselves within the protective boundaries of our homes, for these are like impregnable fortresses that the virus cannot penetrate unless we step out and bring it in ourselves.

Our planet has provided us with so much more that her capacity that she almost has nothing more left to give. She has protected us from floods, famines, disaster and disease just like a selfless mother protects her child from all harm. She has always put us first and all we have done is drained her dry. We have used and abused her time and again for our own selfish gains without giving any thought to her well being. Maybe this is her way of mending herself or teaching us a lesson and making us mend our ways. Who knows?

My artwork titled “Home Safe Home”

Through this artwork I wish to convey that now it’s our turn to return her favors. The earth is our home, in fact the only home we have. By staying within the confines of our individual dwelling places, not only do we protect ourselves from the deadly COVID-19, but also protect our planet from us. Right now, we need to be patient and resilient and wait for the day we attain victory over this virus. Once we are liberated from its stronghold, we must remember to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start. We need to heal our planet and make her a safe haven not just for us but for all the other beautiful living beings that reside on it. Only then will it become “Home Safe Home.”

Let’s hope that this period of confinement and self constraint takes us into the depths of our thoughts and makes us introspect on how we can make ourselves worthy of living in this safe haven. 

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Lockdown Art – Gods in White Capes

The Corona virus is like a malignant tumor that is spreading uncontrollably across the world, slowly putting it into shutdown mode. This is an extremely distressing time in the history of mankind, especially for those who revel being out in the open. But the current situation makes it absolutely imperative for everyone to stay indoors.

Being a loner and a recluse, I have always enjoyed being with myself the most and love my solitary strolls with just nature’s sights and sounds to keep me company. Not only do these secluded reveries relieve me of my worries, but also provide me inspiration for my most beloved activity – making art.  Creating something aesthetically appealing is like therapy to me. It heals my thoughts as well as my spirit and soul.

As I sit isolated from civilization, my own retrospective reflections have found a release through my art. The solitude of lockdown has intensified my artistic energy. My introspections have brought forth glimpses of other’s lives and helped me put their role into perspective. At a time when the framework and confines of daily life have shriveled to the bare necessities, I am filled with gratitude for all the people who are helping the human race endure and sustain this perilous episode.

The artwork I share with you all in today’s post is an expression of my gratefulness to the warriors who are at the forefront of the combat zone of the COVID-19 invasion – our health workers, paramedics, nurses and doctors. This is my tribute to our medical healers who are working tirelessly day and night to pull us out of the clutches of the macabre corona virus.

When man is overwhelmed by turbulent storms, he turns to faith and hope. Faith comes in the form of the trust he puts in his savior to rescue him from the storm and hope is what makes him hold on to his faith. In the present day situation, our faith has taken the form of our medics who are no less than reincarnations of God. They hold the divine power to heal us and revive us back to health.

This dauntless service to humanity is not for mere mortals like you and me. Not only is it equivalent to a divine power, but also an act of heroism in its own right and deservant of a place next to none other than the Almighty. Hence, I have represented the entire medical community through an image of God. I have rendered my illustration of this image of divinity with my beloved prismacolor pencils. I have used chalk pastels to represent the form of the virus and colored gel pens for doodling the dos and don’ts that are being recommended by our doctors and medical experts.    

These are not Gods we have read about in mythological books and epics. They are real life Gods with the power to heal disease. These are not the superheroes we read about in comic books or see in movies. They are real life heroes who are combating this pandemic fearlessly, putting their own lives at risk in the process. So let’s all salute them for their unwavering resolve and support, for we owe our lives to them.  

My tribute to the Corona Warriors

“Viral” Art

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As the deadly Novel Corona Virus or COVID-19 grips the world in its vicious claws and spreads its wings far and wide, it made me wonder how artists during similar epidemic-ridden periods in the past would have been affected and how they would have rendered these afflictions in their own work.  I did some research and was surprised to come across several works of art depicting the same. So get ready for a trip down memory lane to reminisce about how various pandemics in history have been depicted by artists.

Tournai Citizens Burying the Dead During the Black Death, 14th century

During the Black Death (1347 to 1351) skeletons and death were very common in culture and art. This miniature shows the mass burial of the dead by the citizens of Tournai, Belgium. There are fifteen mourners and nine coffins all crammed into the small space, with the face of each mourner given individual attention, each conveying genuine sorrow and fear.

The Citizens of Tournai, Belgium, Burying the Dead During the Black Death of 1347-52(Detail of a miniature from The Chronicles of Gilles Li Muisis ,1272-1352)

Painting by French artist Josse Lieferinxe at the end of the 15th century

In this painting from the 1490s, St. Sebastian, one of the saints whom people prayed to for protection against the plague, kneels before God while a grave attendant is stricken with the plague as he is burying someone who died of the disease. He has a single bubo on his bent neck. You have to look closely to notice the swollen red lump (the bubo) on the neck of the man on the ground in green sleeves.

Painting by French artist Josse Lieferinxe at the end of the 15th century

Giacomo Borlone de Burchis, The Triumph of Death with The Dance of Death, 15th century

The Dance of Death (Danse Macabre), which is a part of The Triumph of Death scene, shows Death as a crowned skeleton queen swinging scrolls in both hands. Two skeletons at her sides are killing people with a bow and an ancient arquebus. Beneath her feet is a marble coffin where the corpses of an emperor and a pope lie surrounded by poisonous animals, symbolic of a quick and merciless end. Powerful yet desperate people from diverse social classes are offering valuables and begging for mercy.

Giacomo Borlone de Burchis, The Triumph of Death with The Dance of Death, 15th century, Oratorio dei Disciplini in Clusone, Italy

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Triumph of Death, c. 1562

The Triumph of Death by Flemish Renaissance master Pieter Bruegel the Elder also shows the Black Death. An army of skeletons wreaks havoc across a blackened, desolate landscape. Fires are burning in the distance, the sea is full of shipwrecks. Everything is dead, even the trees and the fish in a pond. This painting depicts people of all social backgrounds, from peasants and soldiers to nobles as well as a king and a cardinal. Death takes them all indiscriminately.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Triumph of Death, c. 1562, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Pieta, 1576 by Titian

When Venice was struck by plague, Titian painted the Pietà as a prayer for the survival of himself and his son, Orazio. In the bottom right-hand, propped under the stone lion, is a tablet on which Titian and Orazio are seen praying to the Virgin for delivery from the plague, but in vain. Titian died “of fever” and Orazio also died during the plague. Glimmers of silvery torch and moonlight on the mosaic canopy above Christ, on the statues of Moses and the Sybil and the pale glowing  body of Christ accentuate the terrible gloom. While the painting pleads for salvation, the emotional texture is of fear and horror at the closeness of death.

Pieta, 1576 by Titian

Van Dyck’s Saint Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-Stricken of Palermo, 1624.

This was painted by Van Dyck on top of a self-portrait he had sketched on a canvas. Van Dyck was in Palermo, Sicily, when a plague broke out. On July 15, 1624, the remains of Saint Rosalie—the city’s patroness, who died about 1160—were discovered on Mount Pellegrino, seen here above the harbor of Palermo. The canvas was cut on all sides, which trimmed the paint surface slightly on the left and right. Matching canvas has been added and repainted to complete the putto at the top left to the saint’s left hand. The landscape is quite worn and the upper sky is restored.

Van Dyck’s Saint Rosalie Interceding for the Plague-Stricken of Palermo, 1624.

Paulus Furst of Nuremberg, Doctor Schnabel von Rom, 1656

This etching displays a protective costume used in France and Italy in the 17th century consisting of an ankle-length overcoat, a mask, gloves, boots, a wide-brimmed hat, and another outer garment. The mask had glass openings for eyes, a curved bird-like beaked shaped face with straps to hold the beak in front of the doctor’s nose and two small nose holes serving as a respirator which held sweet or strong smelling substances (usually lavender). The beak could also hold dried flowers, herbs, spices, camphor or a vinegar sponge to keep away bad smells, known as miasma. This costume terrified people because it was a sign of imminent death.

Paulus Furst of Nuremberg, Doctor Schnabel von Rom, 1656, British Museum, London.

Bonaparte Visiting the Plague House at Jaffa, 1804.

The painter Antoine-Jean Gros depicts the courage of General Bonaparte visiting plague-stricken French troops in the courtyard of a Jaffa mosque in Syria, being used as a military hospital, in 1799. Bonaparte is seen touching a sore on one of the plague victims with his bare hand. One of the officers has a handkerchief over his mouth. On the left, two Arabs are handing out bread to the sick. On the right, a blind soldier is trying to approach the general-in-chief. In the foreground, in the shadows, the dying men are too weak to turn towards their leader. The painter implies that Bonaparte’s virtue and courage justify the horrors of war and gave him the luminous aura and gestures of Christ healing the lepers in religious paintings.

Bonaparte Visiting the Plague House at Jaffa, 1804.

Arnold Böcklin, Plague, 1898

Plague illustrated Arnold Böcklin’s obsession with war, pestilence, and death. Böcklin, a Symbolist has personified Death here as a winged creature, flying through the street of a medieval town. According to art historians he took inspiration from news about the plague appearing in Bombay in 1898, though there is no straightforward, visible evidence of Indian inspiration (Symbolists always used as ambiguous and universal symbols as possible).

Arnold Böcklin, Plague, 1898, Kunstmuseum Basel.

Egon Schiele, The Family, 1918

The 20th century brought the Spanish Flu, the horrific scale of which is hard to fathom. Egon Schiele was one of the great artists who died from it. The Family was unfinished at the time of Schiele’s death and initially was titled Squatting Couple. It was one of his last paintings. It shows Schiele himself with his wife Edith and their unborn child. Edith died of Spanish flu in the 6th month of her pregnancy. Three days after she died Egon did too.

Egon Schiele, The Family, 1918, Belvedere, Vienna.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait after Spanish Influenza, 1919

Among other famous artists who died of the Spanish flu were Gustav Klimt, Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, and Niko Pirosmani. Edvard Munch caught it but he survived. Munch painted this work in 1919. He created a series of studies, sketches, and paintings, where in a very detailed way he depicted his closeness to death. As seen here, Munch’s hair is thin, his complexion is jaundiced, and he is wrapped in a dressing gown and blanket.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait After Spanish Influenza, 1919.

David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Falling Buffalos), 1988-1989

In this photo-montage a herd of buffalos is seen falling off a cliff to their deaths. Made in the wake of the artist’s HIV-positive diagnosis, Wojnarowicz’s image draws a parallel between the AIDS crisis and the mass slaughter of buffalos in America in the 19th century. It reminds viewers of the neglect and marginalization that characterized the politics of HIV/AIDS at the time. Wojnarowicz died of HIV/AIDS in 1992.

David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (Falling Buffalos), 1988-1989.

Keith Haring, Ignorance = Fear, 1989

Keith Haring designed and executed this poster in 1989 after he was diagnosed with AIDS the previous year.  The poster depicts three figures gesturing “see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing”. This implied the struggles faced by those living with AIDS and the challenges posed by individuals or groups that fail to properly acknowledge and respect the epidemic. Keith Haring died of AIDS in 1990 at the age of 31.

Keith Haring, Ignorance = Fear, 1989, Poster Collection Noirmont art production, Paris.

Untreatable plagues have been a regular feature of human existence for centuries. The medieval Black Death from 1347 to the late 17th century and the Spanish flu were some of the most devastating pandemics in human history. The paintings in this post remind us that “the plague” is not just a thing of the past but a global phenomenon that keeps recurring every few decades.

Not only did art survive the trials and tribulations of disease, it flourished. Even though art history is brimming with images of death, it is also full of learning. It’s almost as if all that pestilence served as a driving force for artists to create incredulous masterpieces aimed at affirming the importance of life. As a global community, we need to take a lesson from this, stop focusing on our differences and fight these outbreaks together. All we need is a positive outlook, the will to fight and a universal messenger like art to transmit the message everywhere.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, we fear epidemics like never before. We don’t know yet what would be the final numbers of this global contagion, but looking back into art history, we realize that the past holds optimistic messages for modern day man. If people could endure incomprehensible contagions in those days, then so can we.

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2012/feb/15/brush-black-death-artists-plague

https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/napoleon-bonaparte-visiting-plague-stricken-jaffa

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/71.41/

https://www.titian.org/pieta.jsp

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/08/18/542435991/those-iconic-images-of-the-plague-thats-not-the-plague

Female Muses through the Ages – Part 2

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During the early days of the Modern Era, the classic female muse was a stereotypical image of a woman who inspired the artistic genius of male artists more on the basis of their physical appearance than anything else. But as time progressed, the later part of the Modern Period witnessed her metamorphosis into something more just a glorified female form. The so called “deity” of inspiration was no longer privy to the male artist’s gaze just for her superficial beauty.

In continuation with last week, today’s post will explore some of these emancipated women who changed the male artist’s perspective towards the female muse and redefined her identity.

Kiki de Montparnasse (1901–1953)

Born Alice Prin in France, Kiki de Montparnasse was a nightclub singer, painter, actress, and model. She posed for dozens of artists including Jean Cocteau, Moïse Kisling and Alexander Calder and inspired several others including Julien Mandel, Gustaw Gwozdecki, and Tsuguharu Foujita.

However, there is no doubt that she was Man Ray’s muse. Le violon d’Ingres, in which she is pictured from behind, with two violin f-holes painted on her back and Noire et Blanche are two of the most recognized works of Kiki by Man Ray.

Her look was legendary: a sharply cropped black bob with straight, thick fringe, pale white skin, dark red lips and severely painted eyebrows. This iconic helmet-like hairstyle would be seen in works of art including paintings, photographs and Pablo Gargallo’s 1928 bronze Kiki de Montparnasse.

Marie-Therese Walter (1909-1977)

Marie-Thérèse Walter was the lover and model of Pablo Picasso. Some famous pieces depicting this French muse are Le Rêve and Nude, Green Leaves & Bust.  Their relation fell apart after Picasso started seeing Dora Marr. While Picasso found another mistress, Marie-Thérèse never stopped loving him, and it’s believed he never stopped loving her — there is an abstract sculpture of her on his grave.

Dora Marr (1907-1997)

This dark-haired beauty was the muse of Pablo Picasso during the 1930s and ’40s. She has inspired several of his most famous paintings, including Guernica (1937) and The Weeping Woman (1937).  Marr, a photographer, was the only person allowed to capture the successive stages of Guernica as Picasso painted it. She is also said to have worked on elements of the painting.  This brilliant intellectual was also a talented painter herself. 

Monique Bourgeois (1921-2005)

In 1941, when Matisse was recovering from treatment for cancer, Monique Bourgeois took the job of nursing him, and doubled as his model. In 1943, after they had been separated by the fortunes of war, Bourgeois entered a convent. She didn’t meet Matisse again until 1946, when she came to see him to ask him to design and execute the Chapelle du Rosaire, his last and greatest complete work.

Gala Diakonova (1894-1982)

Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, otherwise known as Gala Diakonova, was a muse for her first husband Paul Éluard, Max Ernst and André Breton and finally for Salvador Dalí, also her husband. Gala posed for Dalí in works such as Portrait of Galarina, Leda Atomica, and Galatea of the Spheres. Gala appears in several other Dalí paintings and sculptures, notably The Madonna of Port Lligat (1949), Imperial Monument to the Child-Woman, Gala (1934) and The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1958–59).

Helga Testorf (born c.1933 or c.1939)

The muse of the American artist Andrew Wyeth was a German model Helga Testorf. For fifteen years, he worked on The Helga Pictures, a series of more than 240 drawings and paintings of the model. Helga was Wyeth’s neighbor, and the artist depicted her in various poses indoors and out of doors, nude and clothed. Interestingly, the sessions were a secret even to their spouses, and the works were located at the home of Frolic Weymouth who was his student, neighbor, and a good friend.

Andrew Wyeth – Braids (Helga Testorf), 1979. Dry-brush watercolor.

Edie Sedgwick (1943-1971)

The iconic 1960s figure Edie Sedgwick starred in several of Andy Warhol’s underground, experimental films such as Poor Little Rich Girl and Kitchen. Sedgwick was a fixture around Warhol’s iconic Factory, and stars in two screen tests and several films, including Beauty No. 2Ciao! Manhattan and of course Poor Little Rich Girl. Warhol also painted Sedgwick multiple times. Sedgwick’s pedigree and iconic sense of style, which included a cropped haircut, dangling earrings, fur coats, and occasionally, no pants, enthralled the rather shy Pop artist.

Ada Del Moro Katz (born 1928)

Ada Del Moro is the wife of painter Alex Katz, who has depicted her classic, dark-haired beauty in over 40 figurative works including The Black Dress (1960), Ada With Bathing Cap (1965), and The red scarf (Ada in polo coat) (1976). Katz’s portraits of his wife tend to show her stylishly dressed and radiating positivity.

Ilona Staller (born 1951)

Ilona Staller, also known as Cicciolina, married Jeff Koons in 1991. He was inspired by the porn star and Italian politician to create the sexually-explicit “Made in Heaven” series, which featured both photographs and sculptures of the couple engaged in various stages of lovemaking.

Sandra Bush

Not all muses are lovers. For Mickalene Thomas, her greatest inspiration has been her mother, Sandra Bush. Thomas has portrayed Bush, a former model, in several of her characteristically exuberant collage paintings as a quintessential 1970s babe complete with a massive afro and rhinestone-encrusted get-ups. In the 2012 film Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman, Thomas shows a different side of Bush – an aging woman, ill with kidney disease, who narrates her own incredible life story through questions asked by Thomas, who remains off screen.

Mickalene Thomas, Dim All The Lights (2009)

It is evident that with time the female muse was no longer just a young, beautiful woman, groomed by the male artist and displayed to the world as his “find” or “trophy.” In today’s day and age, the art world has debunked and abandoned the traditional ideas of a female muse and successfully obliterated the line between an artist and the muse. Now, one can be the other or even both for that matter.

The quest for inspiration is a continuing process that changes, evolves, and matures with the artists themselves. If a male artist draws inspiration from a woman, he needs to honor not only the artist-muse relationship, but also the personal identity and public image of the woman. No matter what age, color, shape or size, she is an integral part of an artist’s creative universe. After all, in today’s “selfie” and “Me Too” age, who’s stopping a creative genius in the female form from tapping into her own inner muse? She is very much capable of romanticizing herself and does not need a man to do so.

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2008/jun/02/theroleoftheartistsmuse

https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/historys-most-fascinating-muses/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2008/jun/02/theroleoftheartistsmuse

We Pick Our Top 10 Art Historical Muses

https://www.manray.net/ingre-s-violin.jsp

https://www.stedelijk.nl/en/collection/18827-man-ray-noire-et-blanche

https://alchetron.com/Alice-Prin

https://www.pablopicasso.org

https://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/collection/artwork/reportage-sur-levolution-guernica-photo-report-evolution-guernica-12

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/dora-maar-15766/seven-things-know-dora-maar

https://www.dalipaintings.com/

http://dali.exhibits.wag.ca/shows/display,artwork/109/madonna-of-portlligat

http://archive.thedali.org/mwebcgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=1297;type=101

https://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/W.nsf/O/BRUE-5ZKEXF

http://www.jeffkoons.com/artwork/made-in-heaven

Female Muses through the Ages – Part 1

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“Without a muse, an artist is simply a madman shouting to the stars.” ~ Ross Baldwin.

For centuries, muses have been responsible for rekindling the creative spark in artists, inspiring them to paint and guiding them through their creative process. From mythical creatures to enchanting real life beauties, history has witnessed innumerable muses in the feminine form that have captured many an artist’s fancy. The muse has the ability to renew an artist’s passion for art, thereby helpinghim or her to create memorable masterpieces. It is the oxygen to the artistic soul without which it will breathe its last.

The word “muse” originates from Greek and Roman mythology, where it was used to describe goddesses presiding over artistic disciplines. But anything or anyone can serve as the artist’s source of inspiration. Even though many men have been known to provide inspiration, the female form continues to pose as a muse for most artists. From lovers to spouses to friends, inspiration can come in many moulds.

Looking back in history, Andrea del Sarto, an Italian painter born in 1486, was married to his muse, Lucrezia, whose features very closely resembled his ideal female figure at a time when most other painters were building their beautiful female images on the well-loved bodies of boys. Since then, artists of the likes of Rubens, Bonnard, Renoir, Charles Blackman and Brett Whiteley have painted their wives over and over again, but their wives were their subjects rather than their muses.

To commemorate Women’s Day and Women’s week, here’s the story of some of the most stunning female muses from history who have navigated artists towards becoming the architects of several great works of art. This post, which is first of a two part series, will cover the influential women who inspired art in the early part of the Modern Era.

Saskia van Uylenburgh (1612-1642)

Saskia van Uylenburgh was Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn’s wife and muse. From drawings of Saskia lying in bed to allegorical paintings, he managed to show his love for his wife by depicting these works in tender, loving manners.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Saskia van Uylenburgh as Flora, 1641

Elizabeth Siddal (1829-1862)

Elizabeth Siddal, commonly known as Lizzie, was also an artist. Inspiring many Pre-Raphaelites, including Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais, Lizzie truly inspired her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In one of his most famous paintings Beata Beatrix, created after Lizzie died, Rossetti modeled the character Beatrice Portinari after Lizzie as a tribute.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Beata Beatrix, 1864-1870

Victorine Meurent (1844–1927)

A painter herself, she modeled for several paintings by Édouard Manet. Among these, Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) (1862–63) and Olympia feature a nude Victorine in a nonchalant manner, which was quite shocking for the time. His Olympia (1863) shows a nude white woman (recognizably Meurent) lying on a bed as a black servant brings her flowers. In Street Singer (1862), Meurent poses as a woman on the fringes of society, provocatively eating ripe cherries as she holds a guitar. This painting, which shows a hungry girl with dark shadows around her eyes, could represent later years of Meurent’s life when she fell into poverty, appealing in vain for funds from Manet’s widow. She also modeled for painters Edgar Degas and Alfred Stevens.

Amelie Gautreau – aka Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau (1859–1915)

Parisian socialite and renowned beauty Amelie Gautreau was the ‘Madame X’ in John Singer Sargent’s iconic 1884 portrait of that name. The painting sparked a scandal as Gautreau’s clothing was considered “flagrantly insufficient”. She was a striking beauty famous for her unnaturally pale look which was attributed to consumption small amounts of arsenic. But it was later confirmed that she dusted herself with lavender-tinted rice powder. It is believed that in the painting Madame X, Gautreau’s exposed ear is pink because she rouged her ears to avoid “giving away the natural tone of her un-powdered, naked skin”.

Madame X by John Singer Sargent

Camille Claudel (1864-1943)

Camille Claudel was an important artist in her own right, but her work was often overshadowed by her relationship with her mentor, Auguste Rodin. Rodin made several sculptures depicting Claudel, including Portrait of Camille with a Bonnet (1886).

Emilie Louise Flöge (1874-1952)

Emilie Louise Flöge was an Austrian fashion designer, and businesswoman, as well as a partner of Gustav KlimtShe is shown in his 1908 masterwork The Kiss,which portrays the couple as lovers ensconced in glimmering gold.

Klimt also depicted her in a 1902 painting titled Emilie Flöge. Flöge’s pointed features and flat virgin body are encountered often in Klimt’s pseudo-erotic paintings tantalizingly glimpsed through elaborate surface patterning.

Hers is the blank mask at the centre of his 1913 picture, The Virgin. As often with Klimt, the unconscious face is set at right angles to the neck, as if the model had been hanged. On her pedestal, swathed in fabric designed by the master, Flöge is a debased version of the muse as a fashionista.

Audrey Munson (1891–1996)

Known as ‘Miss Manhattan’ and the ‘Panama-Pacific girl,’ Munson was the most popular model of her day. ‘Discovered’ when she was 15 years old, Munson first posed for sculptor Isidore Konti and became Alexander Stirling Calder’s preferred model. In 1915 Munson provoked a crisis among the censors of the American film industry when she played an artist’s muse in Inspiration – becoming the first woman to appear fully nude in a (non-pornographic) motion picture.

The female muse is one of the most romanticized figures in art history and in the past, male artists have predominantly hogged the creative limelight at their expense. During Renaissance and the period of Romanticism, muses were represented sensually and quite often erotically, thereby objectifying them to a large extent and reducing their role to a mere physical level.

Famous artist-muse couples like Picasso and Marie-Thérèse, Camille Claudel and Rodin are etched in art history, but we usually overlook these women as artists in their own right, not to mention human beings with their own identity. Sadly enough, they are remembered merely as models, lovers and muses.

However, with time, the once objectified female muse transformed into a strong, fierce woman who stood up for her rights and honor against the oppression of the society. Modern art is marked with such bold and emancipated figures that have made a place for themselves in the male dominated world. More about them in the second part of this post, so stay tuned!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

http://www.artnet.com/artists/andrea-del-sarto/portrait-of-a-lady-known-as-lucrezia-del-fede-3uGvqodFiPE1HaGNwTiaIg2

https://www.manet.org/luncheon-on-the-grass.jsp

https://www.manet.org/street-singer.jsp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_Madame_X

https://en.artsdot.com/@@/8XXPH5-Fran%C3%A7ois-Auguste-Ren%C3%A9-Rodin-Portrait-of-Camille-Claudel-with-a-Bonnet

http://www.gustavklimt.net/virgin/

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-forgotten-story-audrey-munson-famous-muse-fierce-advocate-women-artists

http://blog.lofty.com/featured/the-muse-of-manhattan/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2008/jun/02/theroleoftheartistsmuse

https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/historys-most-fascinating-muses/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2008/jun/02/theroleoftheartistsmuse

We Pick Our Top 10 Art Historical Muses

https://owlcation.com/humanities/The-Function-of-the-Muse

A Tribute to Womanhood

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A woman is a special being that possesses the miraculous power of creation itself. Being the harbinger of life, creativity comes naturally to her and she is born with it. Just as she conceives life inside her body, nurtures it and finally brings it into the world, she can also spawn beautiful ideas in the womb of her intellect, cultivate them and eventually deliver them to one and all.   

This post is a celebration of feminine creativity and is especially dedicated to all my fellow women artists out there. Why? Because it’s International Women’s Day of course! So here’s wishing all those wonderful ladies that hold the power of creation in their hands, a Very Happy Women’s Day!!

A woman is a receptacle of limitless talent. Throughout history, there has been many a women artist who has created outstanding works of art, be it in the form of paintings, photographs, sculpture or motion picture.  Artists like Mary Beal, Gwen John, Lee Krasner, Eileen Aigar and Frida Kahlo to name a few have made some of the most distinguished contributions towards the field of fine art in particular.

Inspite of facing constant opposition from their male counterparts, women artists have outdone themselves and stood the test of time. Today they are as integral a part of the institution of art as their fellow male artists and walk hand in hand with them, their heads held up high.

One of the greatest gifts a woman possesses is her power to express and emote better than a man. It is this faculty that a women artist harnesses successfully and uses to its fullest potential in order to emote her thoughts to her viewers. This skill allows her to redefine and extend the boundaries of art thus making a mark for herself in the male-dominated world.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day and in celebration of Women’s Week, my next few posts will tell you the story of not only few of the amazing women who have played muse to artists or have inspired art in some way or the other, but also some well known women artists themselves in the field of fine art. So let me kick off the festivities with my personal ode to commemorate this celebration of femininity.    

My tribute on Women’s Day

My artwork displayed above titled “Cheers to Womanhood!” has been inspired by the fabulous womankind that has held its ground with its never-say-die attitude. It is also a mark of respect to all my fellow women artists, in recognition of the remarkable work done by them in the past and looking up to them as a source of inspiration in the future.

This piece of art symbolizes the strength of a woman on the whole and how she is capable of carrying the weight of the entire world on her shoulders. For centuries, women have been marginalized and dominated by men, especially in my country, India. But things are changing now and women are no longer the oppressed sex of the society. For the Indian woman in particular, standing up for her rights against all the atrocities and hardships of the world is a feat in itself.

The veil of modesty that she drapes around her head in the artwork does not diminish her strength or abilities in any way, but only enhances their beauty and power furthermore. The “bindi” or red dot in the centre of her forehead is yet another symbol of her brute force and not just a mark of adornment. Through the expression on her face and the look in her eyes, I have tried to convey that she’s the epitome of power and she’s here to stay.

I have created this piece using prismacolor pencils, with a hint of brush markers for the subtle details. I tried out something new for the background of the veil around the woman’s face. I rendered it with water color pencils, giving it a soft water color wash using a brush dipped in water. Then I added a second layer of color on top, but this time with chalk pastels and once again gave it a wash with my moist brush. I am happy to say that the two shades of peach and pink that I used for the background blended in quite well to create a water color effect. Then I created the print of the fabric with consecutive layers of pencil colors, fine tip markers and rubber stamping with distress ink, thereby adding intricate details to the print.  The face of the woman has been done with prismacolor pencils.

This artwork is not only my tribute to the feminine spirit but also a portrait of the artist in her who has been endowed with the ability to conceive and thereafter deliver her vision. I hope you like my rendition as well as celebration of feminality and you look forward to my upcoming posts in its honor.  

So watch this space for more and till then….

CHEERS TO WOMANHOOD!

The Crafty Affair of Decoupage

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Looking to reuse, recycle and revamp the junk lying around in your home or studio? Then this post is definitely for you, for today, I am going to talk about the decorative and extremely stylish craft of Decoupage which has been in vogue for centuries now. What makes this elegant craft fabulous as well as fun is the fact that it can be done by one and all, be it adults or kids. Many a fine artist has used a decoupage medium to create a unique piece.

 I personally believe that decoupage is like a magic trick that an amateur artist hides up his or her sleeve to create the illusion of a painting and ingeniously dissuade his or her viewers into falling for it. What appears to be painted is nothing but paper cleverly glued into place. That’s why I call it “crafty” decoupage!

What Is Decoupage?

“Decoupage” actually comes from the French word “decouper,” which means to cut out or cut from something else.

Decoupage is the art of decorating common objects like a small box or an item of furniture by gluing cutouts of colored paper, or paper with interesting patterns from magazines or special decoupage papers, in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf and other decorative elements. Thereafter, each layer is sealed with varnishes (often multiple coats) until the “stuck on” appearance disappears and the result looks like painting or inlay work. The traditional technique used 30 to 40 layers of varnish which were then sanded to a polished finish.

3D decoupage (sometimes also referred to simply as decoupage) is the art of creating a three-dimensional (3D) image by cutting out elements of varying sizes from a series of identical images and layering them on top of each other, usually with adhesive foam spacers between each layer to give the image more depth.

Pyramid decoupage (also called pyramage) is a process similar to 3D decoupage. In pyramid decoupage, a series of identical images are cut into progressively smaller, identical shapes which are layered and fixed with adhesive foam spacers to create 3D “pyramid” effect.

History of Découpage

Decoupage is a very old, traditional paper craft. It has a long and fascinating history that can be traced back to a variety of styles from many distant countries. Over the centuries it boasts many famous practitioners including Marie Antoinette, Madame de Pompadour, Lord Byron, Beau Brummel and more recently, Matisse and Picasso. Today, decoupage remains a popular craft with many variations.

As far back as the 12th century, Chinese peasants were creating paper cutouts in vivid colors to decorate windows, lanterns, gift boxes and other objects. This Chinese practice and expertise with scissors is thought to have come from Eastern Siberia, where cutout felt figures and designs were decorating objects in the tombs of Siberian nomads. German and Polish artisans have also been using cut paper for decoration over several centuries. Polish women and children in particular, developed enormous skill with folded colored papers which they cut freehand into geometric shapes and stylized birds, animals and flowers.

12th Century Chinese Decoupage

However, it was the late 17th century lacquer work from the Far East, mostly in the form of furniture, which we tend to associate with today’s découpage. Oriental lacquered objects became fashionable in Europe and in no time demand exceeded supply. As a result, Venetian cabinet-makers and lacquerers (called depentore) began to produce fake lacquer work to keep up with the demand. This work was known as lacca contrafatta-counterfeit lacquer. Apprentices were employed by the artisans to hand-color the prints and engravings of leading artists. The wealthy classes were using master painters to paint their furniture and decorate their walls and ceilings. Thus, it became the poor man’s alternative to painted furniture in France in the 17th century.

Italian secretary desk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York(17 century lacca contrafatta)

In time, because of excessive demand and the fact that many people could not afford the works of the masters, an alternative form of decoration developed. Drawings from the artists of the day were cut out, glued down and covered with lacquer to resemble original paintings. From this derivation came the alternative term l’arte del povero – poor man’s arts. During the 18th and 19th centuries this art form flourished throughout Europe. It even infiltrated the court of Louis XV. Ladies with an artistic bent snipped away at pictures and pasted them onto hatboxes, wig stands, fire screens and toiletry objects, keeping themselves amused for hours. This and the general skill of lacquering were known in England as Japanning. The works of Boucher, Watteau, Fragonard, Redoute, Pillement and many other distinguished artists came to this sticky end.

English Black Japanning

In 19th century England, during the Victorian era, hand coloring and intricate cutting out gave way to the more sentimental, florid collage-style of this art form. This coincided with the introduction of Valentine cards, decorative and embossed papers and braids to embellish surfaces such as screens, lamp bases, linen boxes and much more. While these découpage pieces lacked subtlety and skill, they made up for it with a certain bold and sentimental charm.

English 19th Century Decoupage Fish Chest of Drawers

With such a long and varied history, it is not surprising that découpage is still evolving with new styles. With its colorful origins and variety of techniques the possibilities for this fascinating art form are infinite, offering scopes for endless hours of creativity as well as enjoyment.

One who does decoupage is called a Decoupeur, or “cutter”.  At the age of 71, Mary Delany achieved fame at the court of George III and Queen Charlotte of England thanks to the 18th-century decoupage craze. In 1771, she began to create cut-out paper artworks (decoupage) as was the fashion for ladies of the court. Her works were exceptionally detailed and botanically accurate depictions of plants. She used tissue paper and hand coloration to produce these pieces. She created 1,700 of these works, calling them her “Paper Mosaiks”, from the age of 71 to 88 when her eyesight failed her. They can still be seen in the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum of Art.

Jay (Terry) Jones, a notable decoupeur from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, holds multiple Guinness World records for his extensive decoupage collection. 

Richard Basile, a well known New York art collector and entrepreneur, achieved notoriety as a decoupeur when his intricate floral decorative work was displayed at the Foire Internationale d’art contemporain festival in Paris in 2014. Basile had developed his collective works over more than a decade while working in the basement study of his parents’ New England home.

Uses of Decoupage

Traditionally, decoupage was most commonly used to decorate items of furniture and home accessories. There are many other ways that this versatile technique can be used and it is becoming increasingly popular with card makers and scrapbookers. The three-dimensional images created by decoupage add depth and interest to projects.

Just about every surface can be decoupaged, like wood, paper, fabric, glass, metal, tin, papier-mâché, terra cotta, MDF and many more. The only surface that really presents an issue is plastic, or other surfaces that are extremely slick (and possibly have a coating). The issue is that the glue doesn’t really work well with other polymers, so you would probably be able to pull whatever you Mod Podged off right after it dried. There are some options for decoupage on plastic, including keying up the surface with sandpaper or spray painting with plastic friendly spray paint first.

Materials for Decoupage

  1. Decoupage Medium

Decoupage medium is an all-in-one sealer, glue, and finish used for creating decoupaged works of art. It can be used on wood, fabric and other porous surfaces. It dries clear and holds glued-on paper cuts tight.There are many different types of decoupage glue. Almost any white glue (PVA, craft or school glue) can be diluted with water (three parts glue to one part water) to serve as decoupage medium. One can also add mica, pigment powders or even glitter to the diluted glue to achieve different effects. Mod Podge is a popular decoupage medium and is available in different sizes and with gloss or matte finishes.

Whether it is furniture, home decor or clothing, a decoupage medium is needed for all. There are several types of adhesives, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The type of adhesive used can create different finishes on your product.  Here are a few options:

  • Matte – This finish is flat rather than glossy. Using this finish will allow the decoupage to look more like paint and will create a more seamless design. Putting a matte finish will also help prevent any glare from lights that can be created when using a glossy finish, which will be more reflective.
  • Glossy – A glossy finish will give a shiny or lustrous effect. This is a great option when decoupaging photographs printed on glossy paper. It will not dim the photos, but add to the finish to give a professional look.
  • Satin – A satin finish is similar to a matte finish as it does not have a shine. This is another good product to use if you want to avoid the glare that can be caused by a more glossy finish. A satin finish is the recommended option for furniture you want to have a painted effect on. (IMAGE)
  • Sparkle – This finish will add a little extra sparkle and design. This is a great product if you are planning to decoupage an entire piece.
  • Colored Decoupage – Some decoupages come with a light tint of color. This is great for staining glass, wood, and metal. With a transparent color and the same application uses as all decoupage, it’s a great option for adding that extra bling to your design. 
  • Decoupage for Furniture – This decoupage is great for more porous materials such as wood and fabric. When decoupaging furniture you will also want an adhesive that will not fade with wear and tear. This finish gives the strength and resistance needed for heavily used items. 
  • Outdoor – Using outdoor decoupage will allow you to seal your project from outdoor elements causing less wear and tear than the average decoupage.
  • Making Your Own Decoupage Another option could be creating your own decoupage with  PVA glue and water. Though this may be a cheaper option, it is less strong and will hold for a shorter time. It will also be less water resistant.

2.     Paper for Decoupage 

Almost any paper can be used for decoupage and the type of paper you are use depends mainly on what the project is and what is its purpose. For projects that will be used more, a stronger paper would be better and to personalize something you can use your own photos or cut out images from magazines.

A wide variety of special papers for decoupage are available today at almost all art and craft stores. These contain a number of images that have been selected specifically to suit the purpose of decoupage and provide contemporary as well as traditional designs. In addition to decoupage papers, pre-cut or die-cut decoupage kits are also available. These are a quick and convenient way to create decoupage designs. Here are some examples of paper you can use:

  • Decoupage Paper – These papers are made specifically for more intricate designs and  decoupaging crafts. 
  • Tissue paper – This paper is lighter and thinner so can easily bend around corners and is less likely to have a raised surface or bubble up. Due to its semi-opaque surface, it gives more of an effect like that of a painting than other papers.
  • Cardstock – Cardstock comes in many designs and colors making it a great option for mod podge. A heavier cardstock can be a good option for 3D decoupage as it will look thicker on your project.
  • Photos – Decoupage works perfectly with personal photos. Just add decoupage glue/medium to the surface, stick your photo firmly and then add more adhesive on top to smooth the photo down. You can also use decoupage to transfer a photo to a different surface. When decoupaging with photos make sure they are from a laser printer rather than an ink-jet printer as a photo from an ink-jet printer can smudge with the decoupage application. If you use inkjet-printed images on your surface to be decoupaged, let the ink dry, and then spray it with hairspray. It sets the ink and then you can use the print. Make sure both are completely dry before applying your medium.
  • Fabric – A lighter fabric will work better as it will allow the decoupage to seep in and seal it. To ensure fewer wrinkles, ensure that the fabric is taught and press it onto your surface a little bit at a time. Make sure that you seal your fabric with a polyurethane and sealer.
  • Napkins – Napkins are a great option for decoupage owing to their wide range of designs their lighter nature. Cut out the design before taking apart the layers of the napkins and then use a single layer for the decoupage.

3. Decoupage Adhesive Pads

Decoupage is given the three dimensional, raised effect with the help of a thick double-sided tape or self-adhesive pads. Different effects can be achieved by using different thicknesses of the adhesive pad. When layers are built up using glue without the added depth of a glue pad or tape a more subtle effect is produced. This is similar to paper piecing.

Decoupage Adhesive Foam Pads

4.    Rubber Stamping and Decoupage

Rubber stamping and decoupage are complementary crafts. Decoupage can be used in rubber stamping projects and vice versa. Rubber stamping can also be used as the images for decoupage. This wide range of options makes rubber stamping and decoupage a perfect match.

Rubber Stamp for Decoupage

The above are the essential supplies needed for decoupage, but here are a few other items that might come in handy:

  • Bone folder – This can help smooth out wrinkles and remove excess glue. A tool made especially for this, called a brayer is also available.
  • Foam brush – This is useful for spreading the decoupage medium or glue onto the object to be decoupaged. An ordinary paintbrush or even a cotton swab can be used for this purpose but these are not as effective.
Foam Brushes
  • Scissors – Used to cut out the pictures and other items to be decoupaged. A pair of scissors with small blades or a utility knife can be used to cut decorative paper with a lot of intricate details.
Scissors
  • Tweezers – Tweezers are sometimes great help when it comes to positioning small pictures.
Tweezers
  • Damp rag – Keep one handy to wipe off excess glue and to clean up. Ensure the rag is damp and not soaking wet when using it to remove excess decoupage medium from your glued papers. A damp rag also helps to keep your hands clean while working with glue.
Damp Rag

All about Mod Podge

Since my medium of choice is Mod Podge, I feel it deserves a special mention in my post.  Not only is it a medium, it is also an adhesive/sealer and provides a finish as well. Mod Podge has additional properties that make it better than the regular school or craft glue, thus increasing the longevity of decoupage crafts that are made using it.

The original inventor of Mod Podge was Jan Wetstone, an Atlanta housewife, who in 1967 invented Mod Podge while experimenting with short-cuts to decoupage in her antique shop. It proved to be one of the most enduring successes in the history of the craft industry. Jan secured two patents, one for Mod Podge and one for a molded frame-maker kit.

Jan Wetstone

Here are some of the common surfaces that can be used for decoupage with Mod Podge:

  • Wood
  • Tin
  • Glass
  • Ceramic
  • Metal
  • Fabric (including clothing and shoes)
  • Terra Cotta

Here’s a list of materials that can adhere to the surface using Mod Podge:

  • Paper
  • Fabric
  • Tissue Paper
  • Napkins
  • Stickers
  • Wrapping Paper

My Decoupage Project

I have this habit of scribbling down my thoughts and making “To Do” lists in my daily planner at the end of each day. Moreover, when I come across a new art form or bump into a new craft, out comes my diary and I quickly jot down what I saw so that it is preserved for posterity. Thereafter, I plan out how to go about making this new technique part of my own art. This is where my “To Do” list comes in handy. 

Every year, I invest in a good planner which for all practical purposes does what it is meant to do. One fine day, I asked myself, why does an artist’s planner have to be just a plain looking executive diary? Why should it be any less artistic or creative than the art itself? So I decided to upcycle my old planner into a work of art.  And what better way to do this than with the lovely craft of decoupage! Well, here it is then, the story of my daily planner and how I transformed it from an ordinary diary into the memoir of my dreams.

Since the craft of decoupage was new to me, I had to do a lot of research on what all it requires and how it is done. Having done that, I gathered all the supplies and followed the directions that I had read up. For all those who wish to do try it out, here’s how I went about it, along with a few of my personal tips and tricks that eased the process for me.

Materials I used –

  • Surface/Object of your choice (In my case, my faux leather planner).
  • Gesso to provide a base coat to the surface/object before the next layer of paint. This ensures that the paint is not patchy and the original surface does not peek here and there through the paint.
  • Decoupage Medium (I swear by Mod Podge!)
  • Decoupage paper (I went for decoupage napkins due to advantages I have stated above).
  • Acrylic/Chalk paints (I went for the latter as they are a better option for decoupaging, specifically on surfaces like leather. The former tends to peel off as an entire layer once dry). Tip – Make sure the paint you use is appropriate for the object you intend to decoupage.
  • Distress inks for enhancing as well as blending the painted corners and sides of my planner with the decoupaged paper (This is optional but I would recommend it for a more finished look).
  • Ink Blending Tool for blending in the distress ink uniformly with background.
  • Stencils of text/patterns to add on to your design (again optional).
  • Gloss Varnish to give my cover a glossy shine as well as seal and protect the decoupage work. I would recommend multiple coats. (You can opt for a matte varnish if gloss is not your thing).

Tools I used –

  • Sponge dauber for applying the chalk paint evenly. You can use a paintbrush as well but the brush lines will be visible after the paint dries.
  • Scissors to cut out the decoupage napkin or specific shapes/motifs from it.
  • Craft/X-Acto knife and mat (optional, in case you want finely cut designs).
  • Foam brush for uniform application of the varnish.

The Process –

1.      The first step towards decoupaging is to make sure that the surface/object to be decoupaged is clean, dry and free from any dust or dirt. So I wiped my planner cover with a soft cloth.

2.   Next, I prepared the surface. I did this by applying a basecoat of gesso onto the planner using my sponge dauber and once it was completely dry (which takes about 24 hours), I covered it with a layer of chalk paint with the help of the dauber once again. Tip – the paint should be totally dry before you start decoupaging.

3.   Then I prepare the items to be Mod Podged by cutting out the decoupage napkin which was a beautiful dream catcher print, in the requisite size as well as specific shapes (in this case feathers) that I wanted to decoupage individually. This involved lot of experimentation with various patterns and prints until I came up with the perfect combination and layout for the planner. Tip – Before applying mod podge, arrange the decoupage paper/cuttings/ images onto the object and decide on the final placement.

4.   Next, I applied a thin coat of Mod Podge with my foam brush little by little, each time placing the decoupage napkin layer carefully on top and gently pressing it down to stick it. Working in small sections at a time, I kept lifting the paper to apply a generous layer of decoupage medium onto the planner cover. I kept alternating between applying Mod Podge and placing the napkin on top until the entire sheet was adhered well. Once this was done, I smoothed out any bumps or air bubbles that might have formed during the application. This step requires a bone folder or brayer but since I didn’t have either, I simply placed a ziplock bag on top of the stuck on paper and smoothed it out with my palm. I kept smoothing until all of the bubbles were removed. I followed the same steps for the feathers that I had cut out. Tip – I let the project dry for at least 15 – 20 minutes.

5. Once dry, I added a protective coat of Mod Podge to the planner cover using my foam brush. I allowed it to dry fully once again. Tip – Do not apply a very thick coat of Mod Podge as it tends to show up as white patches once dried.

6. The next step was to blend-in the entire design. I did this by applied distress ink (same as my base color) along the edges and corners of the planner. This gave a smoother and finished look to the entire design.

7. To further add interest to my planner I applied text using a stencil and distress ink in a different color.

8. Last but not the least, I varnished the planner cover with multiple coats of glossy varnish, taking care that each coat had dried completely before I applied the next one.

So there you have it! My very own, custom-made, DIY decoupage possession and I just love it!

Decoupage truly is an art form and many a fine artist has used the craft to create some unique pieces. It is a misleadingly easy craft to execute and though decoupage items may look like painted masterpieces, in reality, they are just pre-printed images on paper seamlessly adhered to a surface with a medium. Decoupage is an act of designing items by innovatively combining different papers and different techniques. It’s all about creativity and experimentation. It is the art of cycling something you already own and personalizing it as your heart desires. I like to attribute this crafty affair with three R’s of its own – Reuse, Recycle and Revamp!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-to-decoupage-1244290

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decoupage

https://www.createforless.com/buying-guides/crafts/decoupage.aspx

https://www.decoupage.org/home/history-of-decoupage

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/heraldtribune/obituary.aspx?pid=163246362

My Art Station

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“Gather and hoard your inspirations as you live, then recapture them as needed in the studio” – Nita Engle (American Illustrator).

As artists, developing our artistic style is quite a demanding task and we will do whatever it takes to fine tune our skills. One of the most important aspects of creating art is the thinking process, but sometimes our aggressive brainstorming tendencies get the better of us and our struggle to attain perfection makes us over think.  Very often our surroundings can play an important role in boosting our creativity. This includes our workspace or studio which can be a major contributing factor towards attaining ultimate creativity.

I have found that most artists can paint almost anywhere. Armed with an easel and their art supplies, they can create great works of art out in the garden, while on the move in a bus and even in the smallest nook or corner they can find. Once they are engrossed in the art, their surroundings fade away. But having a space we can call our own can make that much more difference. Most artists find cheap spaces like abandoned warehouses or even their own garages and attics to innovatively transform them to suit their creative requirements. Not only are they cheap, but are also spacious and provide the artist the freedom of being messy. As someone rightly said, all good art comes out of creating a mess!

My most innovative concepts also take shape intuitively when I am where I love being the most – my Art Station. I call it my art station and not my studio because it is not an entire room that I have dedicated to my art, but just a small, comfy and cozy corner in my bedroom where I can embark on artistic pursuits, oblivious to the world around me. For me, just spending a few moments silently in my creative corner can give birth to my next innovative idea.

Even though I am an amateur artist who is not associated with any art galleries or working in a shared space, I still spend a lot of time alone in my art station. In this post, I’ll let you in on my personal creative space and how I let it grow and mature to keep up with the demands of my work.

When I had just started painting, I didn’t think I deserved a separate art area, let alone a studio.  I would just set up my easel, paints and other art materials wherever I found space, even if it was on the dining table or the bed. But soon enough, I realized that not only did it take up a lot of my time setting up, but also clearing up once I was done painting ate away into those precious moments that I could have added on to actually creating the artwork itself.  So the dining table and the bed were just not working for me!

Having realized that, I started looking for small spaces in my home to designate as my art area, where I had all my art supplies at my disposal anytime and every time. Eventually I cordoned off an area in my bedroom that served as my art station. Here, I can paint whenever my heart desires, without going through the hassle of setting up or worrying about cleaning the mess after I am done. I can just leave it all as it is and pick up again the next day from where I had left!  I love my art station and everything in it.

Creating as Art Studio in Your Home

So what does it take to create a work space for your art? For one, it is not the size of your creative space but its feasibility with respect to your work that matters. What I mean is that not only should your work station or studio space permit you to leave things as they are while the work is in progress but also fulfill all other requirements of your creative process.

Since size is not the primary criteria, your creative space can be an area of your bedroom, like mine is, a storage area or attic that can be converted into a creative space, or even your basement or garage for that matter. You could section off part of a larger room also using a folding screen or a curtain. Once this is taken care of, you can personalize your creative space with whatever inspires you.  This will make the space inviting and you will be motivated to spend more time there doing what you love doing the most – creating art!

Here are a few tips for sculpting your very own art retreat at home:

  • Decide on a spot The first step towards creating the ultimate creative area for your art is chalking out the physical space. This will be your creative haven, so put in all the love and care into it.
  • Surround yourself with what inspires youFill your creative space with objects and images that inspire and motivate you to make art. You can do this by pinning or sticking them up on a display board on the wall, something like an inspiration board. Not only is it always in front of your eyes, but also every time you find something visually exciting, you can simply tack it to this board. It’s that simple!
  • Dedicate a corner in a room of your choice for an art area. Use shelves, tables, racks etc., to separate out your art area in this room. For my art station, I got an art table custom made to my requirements with adequate shelving to hold baskets of my art materials. I got this table ergonomically designed keeping in mind the fact that I suffer from cervical spondylitis. So to ensure that my neck is not strained while I paint, the table top can be inclined vertically at various angles to suit my comfort. Another modification I made to my table was that I got the shelves made towards the left as I am left handed. Even my work area where I place my paints and color palette are towards the left. So there’s a custom made art table for all you lefties like me!
  • Another good option for an art space is a closet or clothing rack, if you have one to spare. All you need to do is clear some shelves to store your art supplies with a small table, chair in front of it and Voila! Your little art studio is ready!
  • Keep a fold-down table or chair handy. I have a couple of folding chairs which I use not just for sitting while I paint, but also for keeping my laptop, iPad and other knick knacks.
  • The garage, attic or basement are some more options for art studio spaces, provided you take care of the heating, cooling and humidity issues. This is crucial not just for protecting your art but also to make you comfortable while you work. Trust me, it’s no fun painting when you are sweating like a pig or freezing to death!
  • Get an art caddy with wheels. Even though I had this amazing custom made art table with adequate shelves to store my art supplies, after a while it was just not enough! So I invested in a cart with shelves that could be rolled on wheels. Not only did this sort out my storage woes, but also provided me with mobility and easier access to my art materials, without coming in the way of other things in my bedroom.

Here are a few ways I have personalized my creative space (while some of them I have already done, others are still part of my wish list!):

  • A display board where I can pin up anything and everything that inspires me be it images, quotes or my random doodles and scribbles.
  • A collection of objects that I love or I am sentimentally attached to. For instance, my daughter gifted me a hand painted coffee mug on Mother’s Day and this has become a holder for my palette knives! A caricature artwork of Game of Throne characters adorns the wall just above my art table. I fell in love with it not just because I am a GOT fan, but also because it inspires me artistically.
  • A list of my goals and challenges. These are listed out in my planner.
  • A calendar and planner to track my progress (once again part of my planner diary).
My planner and calendar diary
  • Images of my favorite projects and published or commissioned works which I keep in folders (I am obsessed with being organized!)
  • A small sound system to play my favorite music while I work (Usually my iPad and Bluetooth speaker).
My music buddies

While I’m still far from creating a gorgeous studio like the ones owned by seasoned artists, I am totally in love with this little personal corner that is solely dedicated to my art.  I believe that if art is all you really live for, even the smallest space can be transformed into a creative haven. It’s about making your art a priority.

Apart from these, here’s a list of supplies and essentials that I keep in my art station:

  • Paint Brush Holder – This is basically a functional organizer with slots of different sizes to hold my assortment of paint brushes. You can even use it to store other things like pens, markers, pencils etc. These can be found in any good art store or online stores.
  • Paints, Brushes, Pencil Colors, Pens, Markers – As an artist, these are obviously a must. How you store them, is entirely up to you. I like to store them separately in baskets that I keep in the shelves of my table (OCD for being organized yet again!)
My paint brush holder
  • Easels – I have a couple of easels, one large and the other small that I can use for bigger and smaller canvases respectively.
  • Seating Arrangement Having a chair to work on is a lifesaver when my back starts to give up on me. A comfortable chair also gives me a chance to sit back and review my work critically as I paint.
  • Laptop – I often use photographs and computer images as a reference point for my art so having my laptop at close quarters comes in handy.
My digital companion always by my side
  • Music – I love to have music playing in the background while I paint.  So I have my iPad connected to my blue tooth speaker playing my favorite tracks to lift my spirits.
My iPad and Bluetooth speaker to play my favorite tunes
  • Storage – As mentioned earlier, I have sufficient storage space in the form of the inbuilt shelves of my art table, my mobile art caddy and my assortment of baskets and organizers for my art supplies. The only thing I am lacking now is an arrangement for storing my painted as well as unpainted canvases safely. So even though presently I just line them up on top of tables, stools, cupboards or practically wherever I find the space, I am working on this project!
  • Art Books – I am pretty proud of my small yet valuable collection of art books. I look up to them for inspiration whenever I am struggling with an idea or a technique for a particular painting or may just read up on the great masters of art with the hope of magically imbibing some of their talent!  
  • Inspiration Board – This one I am yet to get! I have so many pictures and photographs that I have collected from various sources like magazines, journals, newspapers etc., but most of them are lying tucked away inside some file or folder. Guess it’s time for me to dish them out and tack them up on the wall!
  • Good Lighting – Now this is THE most essential thing to have for an artist! Although natural light is the best, but owing to space constraints, I had to place my art station at a spot which does not get any. So I have to make do with a portable clip-on lamp that focuses light directly onto my canvas. It may not be as good as natural light but it gives me a good enough idea of the values of colors I am using.

As I said, the biggest advantage of having a personal space for creating your art is that you can leave things as they are while the work is in progress. This will give you extra bits of time that can be put to effective use towards creating or even fine tuning the artwork itself. These added moments will not only give you a chance to improve on your art but also help you finish it well before your intended target.

The entire process of assigning a creative space not only improves productivity, but also provides you with a feeling of joy and contentment. Your confidence levels get a major boost when you are in your personal creative space and your aspirations get renewed too.

The best part about being an artist is that you don’t need a testament to prove you are one. How you see and experience the world around you is totally up to you. Having a studio or a creative area doesn’t mean that you are limited by its physical space and neither do the things inside it determine what kind of work will sell and what will not. For us artists there are no limits.  Don’t smother your creativity by walking into your studio each day thinking what you should make that will be liked or that will sell. Just have fun creating art. Very often people fail to make this small but significant commitment. Have a place to work where you can give your thoughts wings and soar away into the vast expanses of creativity.  

 I hope this motivates you to start looking around your house for potential areas that you could turn into your art space. Paint it a different color from the rest of the room. Add some interesting as well as functional furniture. Put some items that are close to your heart.  Stock up on all your necessary supplies that you would like to keep in your art space. Maybe even christen it with a special name! Let the space speak to you and let it grow with your work.

I’d love to hear about your creative space. What are your essentials for your workspace and how have you personalized it? What are your trade secrets for storage? Do let me in on your own creative corners!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

http://www.art-quotes.com/getquotes.php?catid=292#.Xk9xLSgzbIU

https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/art-quotes-to-guide-your-studio-practice

https://www.brit.co/create-the-ultimate-creative-space/

My Favorite Artist

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“The human mind works in a peculiar way: we tend to cling to the past and be overcritical about the present. That’s why modern art often comes under attack. We compare new creations with classic masterpieces and seek out the smallest flaws. Perhaps the grass used to be greener a few centuries but it doesn’t mean that talented people stopped being born in our lifetime! Here is a living illustration.” Leonid Afremov.

I might have mentioned the name Leonid Afremov before in several of my earlier posts. Not only is he my all time favorite artist, but also my source of inspiration. I more or less idealize him when it comes to art several of my works are influenced by his style and technique. In today’s post, I will talk about what it is that got me hooked on to his work and how I have attempted to incorporate his iconic style in my own art.

Leonid Afremov was a Russian–Israeli modern impressionistic artist who worked with palette knives and oils to produce some bright and cheerful art. Over the last 25 years, he developed his own personal style and technique which differentiated him from other artists. He mainly painted landscapes, city scenes, vintage cars, seascapes, cats playing jazz and flowers. He formed distinctive pieces with bold knife cuts and color contrasts that conveyed a wide range of jubilant emotions.

Afremov generally worked with photographs taken from his world travels, which he used as a reference point for most of his paintings.  His work reflected a personal memory or emotion, focusing on a feeling rather than a story. He skillfully combined the palette knife with bright colors to produce a positive reflection of his surroundings, thus making each artwork as attractive as the next. This unusual yet unique technique of painting where he uses only oils, canvas, and the palette-knife appealed to anyone and everyone, regardless of their age, social or ethnic background. The elegant play of the vibrant colors in Afremov’s paintings gives art lovers a nostalgic feel of luxurious autumnal cities. His pictures seem to slow down time, letting us enjoy the precious details of these brisk and luminous landscapes.

Leonid Afremov was one of the greatest and best-known modern art impressionists of our time. He was and still is highly respected among art critics and collectors. His beautiful paintings have made their way to private houses and galleries in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, France, Spain, and many other countries. This is even more admirable knowing that the artist was self-representing and all of his promoting and selling processes were only held on the Internet with very few exhibitions and very little involvement of dealers and galleries. His self-developed technique and style is unmistakable and cannot be confused with other artists. Most of his work is considered very politically neutral.

Afremov was born on 12 July 1955 in Vitebsk, Belarus and passed away on 19 August 2019 at Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico due to cardiac arrest. Before the advancement of online sales and eBay, Afremov was a struggling artist. He lived in Vitebsk, Belarus until 1990. Between 1990 and 2002 he lived in Israel and from 2002 to 2010 in Boca Raton, Florida. 

Afremov was born to Jewish parents Bella Afremova and Arkadiy Afremov. His father was a shoe designer and shoemaker. His mother worked in a metal factory in Vitebsk. He was born in the same town as Marc Chagall, who later became a significant role model to Afremov.

In 1973 Leonid Afremov graduated with honors from his high school in Vitebsk and was admitted to the Vitebsk Education Institute where he studied in the arts and graphics department. During his years in college, Afremov was introduced to the work of Marc Chagall, Picasso, Dali, Modigliani and the 19th century French Impressionism. His early artistic work was greatly influenced by Chagall and Modigliani. During his years in college, Afremov participated in various school exhibitions and even sold some paintings. In 1978 Afremov graduated from the Vitebsk Art School as one of their elite members. After that he took private lessons from local famous artist Barowski who was teaching art when Marc Chagall was still living in Vitebsk.

Life and career in Soviet Russia from 1976 to 1990

After graduating from college, Afremov worked as a label designer in a local beer and liquor factory. Then he briefly worked in a local theater as a set designer.

In the early 1980’s he started doing freelance work for communal farms and schools, designing and making various propaganda posters, themed rooms and walls for certain communist events and holidays. He was also doing template sculptures of Lenin from plaster. He had a very good reputation in that field and was invited back by many farms and schools. This type of work was available only during the summer and spring.

During the cold Russian winter, Afremov stayed at home painting. He was not allowed to participate in government exhibitions because of his Jewish roots and was not allowed to be a member of the local art associations. His early work was sold privately via family and friends and was not seen by many people. A lot of his work in the 1980’s was just given away for free. He did not keep records of his work then and not much of it survived.

In 1986 the Chernobyl disaster happened. Vitebsk was only a few hundred kilometers from Chernobyl, close enough for radiation to travel with the wind and rain. The ecological situation in the area worsened, with the local crops and water becoming contaminated with radioactive fallout. Small children were affected severely, including Afremov’s two year old son. At the same time Leonid Afremov was experiencing serious discrimination for his Jewish heritage. The liberal politics of Mikhail Gorbachev allowed Jewish soviet citizens to migrate to Israel in the late 1980s. Fed up with anti-semitism and problems caused by radiation, Leonid decided to move to Israel without hesitation as soon as the doors were opened.

Life and career in Israel from 1990 to 2002

A few weeks after moving to Israel, Leonid Afremov found a job in an advertisement agency making signs and posters. After working in an advertisement agency, he worked in a gallery shop where he learned to make frames, being introduced to the palette knife for the first time.

Being a recent Russian immigrant, his work was not considered to be of great value by the locals. Galleries took paintings for 50 shekels (15USD) and were reselling them for 500 to 5000 shekels. The galleries refused to sell his work for percentage commissions just because he was a Russian immigrant. He was only given the option of a pittance for each painting which took a day to make. Afremov felt exploited and discriminated by the galleries and the Israeli society just like he was by the Soviet Government. He attempted to sell his art at street fairs and exhibitions in local social clubs. However, it was difficult because of the social stigma of Russian immigrants.

During the early 1990s, Leonid Afremov was mainly working with watercolors and acrylic. He was experimenting very little with usage of the palette knife. He painted what people were buying, with very little artistic freedom. In 1994, out of extreme desperation, his 16-year-old son Dmitry tried to sell Leonid’s paintings door to door around the neighborhood, This practice proved itself very effective, and Afremov suddenly started selling many pieces he painted and was getting slightly better prices than from selling directly to galleries. Dmitry proved himself to be a good door-to-door salesman. He was selling Leonid’s paintings in the new neighborhoods where recent Russian Immigrants were living.

 In 1995, Leonid acquired enough funds to open his own gallery and frame shop in Ashdod. The gallery was not popular among local Israelis; it was mainly visited by fellow Russian immigrants. The gallery was vandalized and broken into on several occasions. The local Israeli newspapers were refusing to publish advertisements for Afremov’s Gallery, and he was mainly advertising via Russian immigrant press and radio station. However, artistic freedom could not be achieved completely.

Around 1999, Leonid became friends with Russian-speaking Israeli jazz musician Leonid Ptashka, who inspired Afremov to paint a collection of portraits of popular jazz musicians and helped him secure a successful exhibition in the International Jazz Festival in Ashdod. Since then, Leonid Afremov has painted dozens of his favorite musicians.

In March 2001, Afremov’s gallery was completely vandalized. Dozens of paintings were destroyed, the artistic equipment stolen and the facility turned into rubble. Then Leonid decided it was time to move somewhere else where he would be treated with respect, eventually moving to the USA in January 2002.

Life and career in USA from 2002 to 2010

Leonid Afremov prepared for his move to USA very carefully. For several months he did not sell any paintings and sent everything he painted to his sister in Brooklyn. When he arrived in the US in January 2002, he had more than one hundred paintings at his disposal. Along with his son, he visited several galleries in New York. Some of these liked and purchased his paintings, however they only picked up Judaic themes and musician portraits. This forced Afremov to paint only limited themes and subjects in order to make a living.

Leonid had good opportunities in New York but the cold climate affected his health. He was constantly struggling with arthritis and muscular pain caused by drastic temperature changes. Thus he moved to Fort Lauderdale in April 2002. In Florida, Afremov faced the same changeless like in New York, selling only certain themes and subjects that the galleries wanted and were able to sell.

In 2004, after graduating from high school, Leonid’s son Boris was introduced to eBay by his friends. They tried to auction some of Leonid’s paintings with positive results. Paintings were sold for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars and everything sold without exception. For the first time Afremov was given the opportunity to paint what he really wanted. This was when his real artistic journey began. He started painting what he really wanted from his personal inspirations and was finally able to explore his artistic vision and abilities all the way.

The exposure on eBay gave him opportunities for commission orders and access to different galleries. However, because of past bitter experiences with galleries, Leonid preferred to sell directly to the collector. Thanks to the internet exposure, Afremov participated in various local TV shows around the USA.

In 2007 with the help of his sons Leonid launched his own personal site where he began selling giclees, prints and original painting, eventually moving all the business and attention to his personal site. Two years later Leonid underwent heart bypass procedures. The doctors recommended Leonid to stay away from managing a business, keep a calm lifestyle and ultimately retire. It was then that his sons Boris and Dmitry started handling his sales, customer service and shipping.

Recent life and career in Mexico

In 2005 Leonid Afremov vacationed in Playa del Carmen and Cancun for the first time. Thereafter he visited the Mexican Caribbean 2 to 3 times in a year and completely fell in love with the place. Eventually in March 2010 Leonid decided to take on early retirement recommended by his doctors and moved to Playa del Carmen, a popular resort town near Cancun. By now his children were so involved in his business that they had to move to Mexico as well and managed his virtual gallery and shipping office in Playa del Carmen. The Afremovs also have locations in Cancun and Cozumel where they sell art during the busy tourist season in the winter. Leonid found Caribbean Mexico very relaxing and stress free. In 2011 Leonid sponsored the construction of his own personal ranch near Puerto Morelos where he spent much of his time.

Afremov’s Artistic Philosophy

Leonid Afremov kept majority of his art politically neutral. His paintings are not offensive to anyone nor send any hidden messages. They usually reflect certain personal memories and emotions. Afremov tried to draw the viewer’s attention towards a certain feeling rather than tell a story through his painting. He wanted his viewers to see the world through his eyes. The neutral attributes of Afremov’s art make the paintings appealing to almost all strata of society. He travelled quite extensively and took many photographs of different scenes that he later painted. Almost every painting he painted has a very personal inspiration. His art can be reflected as very positive through the bright colors he used. In fact, it was declared very relaxing and calming by notable psychologists and psychiatrists who make use of his painting in various psychological and psychiatric therapy procedures. Afremov’s paintings were published not only in art magazines but also in various medical and health magazines as examples of stress reducing paintings.

Afremov loved cats and other animals, hence painted many with cats, dogs, horses, tigers and even giraffes. The only political paintings he did were of bull-fighting, where he tried to show the viewer the cruel nature of the sport and discourage people from liking it. 

 After reading Leonid Afremov’s bio, one can understand how he attained success. Struggling for his individuality and artistic freedom, he managed to create his own style based on the experiences of the most outstanding artists. While Afremov’s early works were influenced by the masterpieces of older painters, his later artworks are very unique and recognizable.

According to Mr. Afremov, art is not something elite, understandable for a small circle of intellectuals only. He didn’t want to put any complicated hidden messages into his work – on the contrary, he wants his paintings to be intuitively close to everyone. When one looks at those autumn parks, lantern-lit alleys and vibrant cityscapes, the idea is rather clear. The artist invites his viewers to the world of simple beauty all around, but we are all too busy to stop for a moment and enjoy it. If an artist can open his viewers’ eyes to that, then his creations are not in vain.

Afremov proved that elegance and delicacy are elements of art that are still alive. While many artists try to shock the public with something slangy, this painter respected traditions. He didn’t follow them automatically but took the best from every style.  Modern art need not be incomprehensible. It can be meaningful and clear – that’s the idea behind his paintings.

Here’s a collection of his paintings that are my personal favorites:

Afremov’s Technique

Using his unique knife painting technique and unmistakable style, Afremov created paintings that seem to explode in millions of bright colors. Focusing primarily on land and seascapes, he formed distinctive pieces with bold knife cuts and colour contrasts that conveyed a range of jubilant emotions. His artistic philosophy rests on the idea that art is not only for elite, but rather something that everyone should have the opportunity to appreciate. His pieces maintain a characteristic ebb and flow, with colours and textures woven together to form an emotive gradient that captures one’s attention, first with bright colours and then with the technique.

Joyful and radiant, Afremov’s animated artwork achieve an emotional connection that personally touches those who respond to his talent. Afremov had the ability to touch a wide audience by focusing on keeping his artwork simple and politically neutral. The artist’s work doesn’t aim to offend anyone or reveal any deeper messages, but seeks to speak for itself by reflecting memories and emotions that are universally relateable.

My Art Inspired by Afremov

Besides being greatly influenced by the distinct and trademark style of Afremov, I was also drawn towards the vibrant color palette that he uses for his paintings. I believe it is these two features about his art that appeal to me the most. It is my constant endeavor to incorporate his technique as well as his exuberant colors and textures into my work. Having said that, I try to cautious not to mimic or clone his style and produce identical replicas of his work. My objective is only to apply the best of his skills to further enhance mine.

Keeping this in mind, I have attempted to add my own little twist to his palette knife technique. Instead of applying paint in thick daubs with a palette knife, I tried doing so with a paint brush, while keeping the thickness of the paint intact. Even though the effects were not the same as those achieved by Afremov with his method, what I got was pretty close, yet different enough. In order to polish up my technique, I first experimented with a couple of Afremov’s paintings themselves as part of a process of their recreation, but in my own unique way.

Quite often I mix my paints with modeling paste or a similar thickening agent in order to attain specific textural effects in my artworks. This is another special touch that I have added to further enhance my version of Afremov’s style of painting, thereby aiming to acquire similar results. It was a learning experience that has paved the path towards developing my individualistic signature style which I applied to several of my paintings later on.

Here are some visuals of the works I did with my favorite artist’s paintings in order to fine tune my process followed by artworks that were inspired by his technique. Hope you all enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed painting them!      

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data; therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.

Sources and Photo Credits –

https://afremov.com/

Art as Magazine Covers

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Ever come across magazine covers designed by famous artists of the likes of Da Vinci, Van Gogh or Picasso? If you haven’t, then read on!

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that many famous masters of art have contributed their artistic prowess towards the creation of some of the most innovative and awe-inspiring covers for these periodical publications.

Here’s a blast from the past of a few acclaimed works of distinguished artists featured in some of the most well-known and historical magazines known to man.  

Works of Henri Matisse

The renowned artist Henri Matisse was hired by the publisher George Macy to illustrate a limited edition of 1500 of James Joyce’s Ulysses, concurrent with the book’s initial mid-1930s publication. But, Matisse chose to illustrate Homer’s Odyssey instead. The leather bound foil stamped case cover was unlike anything created by this artist before.

Matisse also designed the cover for his own book of paper collages, Jazz and very often also designed covers for other authors and magazines. One such case is his cover for photographer Henri Cartier Bresson’s 1952 book The Decisive Moment. This solely displays his own art and hand-lettering.

Other covers designed by him include the 1946 edition Lettres Portugaises (Portuguese Letters), credited to the 17th-century Franciscan nun Mariana Alcoforado, and the 1952 biography of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, for a limited edition of 380 copies. It also included 8 original lithos, two as the endpapers and the other six within the interior. Two years prior he designed a limited edition of the fifteenth century French poet Charles d’Orléans, a work Matisse began in 1943, interrupted by the war. All limited editions of 1200 were signed and numbered by Matisse in pencil on the frontpiece lithograph.

He also designed several posters throughout his career for which he would usually leave space for others to place set type. However, there are some that feature his distinctive hand-lettering.

Works of Pablo Picasso

Besides Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Known as the father of the Cubist movement (alongside Frenchman Georges Braque and fellow Spaniard Juan Gris) he  is also credited with the co-creation of collage (with Braque); the invention of constructed sculpture; as well as myriad printmaking, ceramics, stage design and painting periods and styles throughout his long career.

His experiments with graphic design led to exhibition posters for his own work; however there were magazine and book covers as well. There were also commissioned posters for the French Alps town of Vallauris, to promote their area as a perfume and pottery center of production following World War II. Picasso lived there beginning in 1948, and designed and illustrated these posters through the 1960s.

Of particular interest in these works is his approach to designing typography. In addition, reoccurring themes appear, similar to his other work, such as goats, bulls, doves and the human face. Along with the exhibition posters he also designed peace posters. He was a member of the Communist Party throughout his adult life, and remained neutral during both world wars and the Spanish Civil War, strongly advocating peace.

A poster for film “The Battle on the River Neretva” (1969) was made by Pablo Picasso, and it was only one of two movie posters that he made. He did it as a great fan of Yugoslavian movies and, according to people who were involved in filming, he did not ask for money for the poster–all he wanted was a case of Yugoslavia’s finest wines. This special poster was printed in only 80 editions.

Works by Dali, Picasso, Braque & More

As evident above, in the early 20th century, the line between fine art and graphic design began to fade, which eventually became clear in the design work of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Here are some more captivating magazine covers by the likes of Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Braque and other famous fine artists to further support this:

Salvador Dalí

The world of fashion in itself is surreal in nature thus making the father of Surrealism, Dalí and fashion magazine, Vogue a perfect match. He created many works for the magazine, one of his earliest being its April 1944 cover. The artist employed many of his usual concepts, from the open and accented perspective, to images of stones, insects and a horseman. Even his rendering of the magazine title is a surreal collage of images and textures.

Verve: The Ultimate Review of Art and Literature

During the twentieth century, there were two main publications that led the great masters to contribute cover designs as well as interior artwork. The first was Verve: The Ultimate Review of Art and Literature. Published in Paris by Teriafe, its inaugural issue on December 1937 featured a cover by Matisse. The publication continued until 1960, with 38 editions and featured the works and writings of Pierre Bonnard, Marc Chagall, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Joan Miro, Man Ray, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc. A hard covered journal sporting a dust jacket included were tipped-in lithographs by the renowned artists. Covers also featured the likes of Bonnard, Francisco Bores, Georges Braque, Chagall, and several by Picasso.

Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts

Preceding Verve was Broom, which was founded by Harold Loeb and Alfred Kreymborg and published in Europe. It premiered on November 1921 and lasted until January 1924. Loeb, related to the Guggenheims on his mother’s side, wished to bring the European avant-garde to the U.S.  Among the artists included were Juan Gris, George Grosz, Matisse, Laslo Moholy-Nogy, Picasso, Man Ray and Joseph Stella. The magazine’s cover designers included Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, El Lissitzky, Man Ray as well as lesser known artistslike Enrico Prampolini, Ladislas Medgyes among others.Unlike the ostentatious Verve, Broom featured two-color paper covers and black and white interiors with tipped-in quality black and white prints of artwork and photography and occasional woodcuts.

 

Vogue

 

Salvadore Dali, Man Ray and Juan Miro contributed several magazine covers for the fashion title Vogue in the 1940s. Even Matisse made an appearance as a backdrop and while not his design Marcel Duchamp’s The Large Glass sculpture appeared as a prop with his blessing.

Works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Banksy, Fairey et al.

 

 Stuart Davis was an American painter best known for his Cubist, jazz and billboard inspired modernist paintings. Early in his career, as a political progressive, he was a regular contributor to the leftist magazines The Masses and The New Masses. During the Great Depression he worked on several murals for the Federal Art Project. Other regular contributors to these magazines included renowned artists George Bellows and Alexander (Sandy) Calder.

Andy Warhol, father of the pop art movement, began his career as an illustrator but constantly blurred the line between fine and applied arts. In addition to his better known designs for albums covers (the eponymous titled “The Velvet Underground” and “Sticky Fingers” for the Rolling Stones) and Interview magazine, which he founded, he contributed covers to several publications, including Time and Vogue. Other Time contributors included fellow pop-artist Roy Lichentstein and other famed artists Marc Chagall, Robert Rauschenberg, Romare Bearden, Ben ShahnJacob Lawrence and Alex Katz.