Awakening(Commissioned)

The second and final installment of the Buddha series is a painting titled Awakening, which was made to order for an office space. The brief was to create an image of the Buddha in the highest state of consciousness, that is, Nirvana.

I had been specifically asked to use muted colors, hence I restricted my palette to earthy tones, comprising of warm hues like yellow, orange and brown, with just a hint of red.

Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness and the realization of this state is the awakening. The path to attaining nirvana is meditation, which was practiced by the Buddha himself. Hence, in my painting as well, I have depicted him in a meditative pose.

The look of serenity on the Buddha’s face in this composition symbolizes the joy and contentment he experienced after he awakened to nirvana. I have attempted to highlight the two important aspects of Buddha’s Awakening here, namely, the “what” and the “how”. The former is what the Buddha awakened to, which is the fact that immortal happiness does exists. The latter refers to the means of achieving this eternal happiness, which is human effort.

While painting this piece, the biggest challenge for me was to portray not only the tranquil expression of the meditating Buddha, but also  a vision of the ultimate reality that he was able to see once he awakened to nirvana. I have tried to illustrate this vision in the form of the Buddha’s reflection in the flowing stream. This image of the Buddha himself in the water is symbolic of the eternal happiness that was within him. In order to realize it, all he needed was the right perspective.

In other words, you don’t need to see different things, but rather see things differently and the undying happiness that we are looking for in worldly delights can be found within ourselves.

I have also attempted to capture some of the other important aspects of nirvana in my painting. One of these is mindfulness, that is, an awareness of reality around us. The background of the painting, specifically the negative space and the flower buds around the Buddha, represent this reality.

Another factor is concentration, which is evident through the calmness in the face of the Buddha, thus displaying that one pointed state of awareness.

Yet another facet that I have tried to bring out is tranquility of both body as well as soul, by rendering an aura around the body of the Buddha and a warm glow in the center of the torso. The former denotes calmness of the bodily form and the latter, serenity of the mind and soul.

The Buddha’s look of contentment personifies equanimity, wherein the body, mind and soul are in equilibrium and accept reality as it is, without any craving or aversion.

I have once again used my favorite medium to create this composition. Yes! Oil paints!! But, to bring about a tactile feel to my work, I have also combined it with the technique of impasto, which I have discussed in detail in one of my earlier posts (Dragon-Resurrection, dated, July 6, 2019).

I have applied the impasto in the flower buds and their stems in order to give them a 3D effect.  Previously, I had used it in combination with acrylics but this time, I have taken the conventional approach with oil paints.

One thing that I realized is that the end result obtained with both mediums is entirely different. While acrylic impasto gives a matte effect, impasto with oil paints has a glossy sheen to it.

Now I am not saying that one is better than the other…that is a matter of personal choice. So try both and take your pick!

Dragon – Resurrection

As the name suggests, this one is all about the concept of transformation, to be precise, Resurrection or Anastasis. And what can represent this better than the celestial Phoenix! I have attempted to depict this very idea through the mythical bird’s rise from the ashes. For me, the phoenix is an eternal symbol of hope in the face of adversity.

The phoenix is often depicted as a large red bird rising up from a fire. This is because it symbolizes life after death or hope after destruction. In my artwork, it represents two philosophical principals:
• Out of troubled circumstances comes eventual good.
• Hope never dies.

I know what you’re thinking….Whatever happened to the dragon and how did the phoenix take its place? When the dragon feels cleansed of its misdeeds, he rises above himself and takes the leap of empathy. Having repented for his crimes by burning his sins to the ground, he seems to be “born again” from his own ashes and is renewed with new spiritual life. From these ashes, he is”resurrected” and rises like a new, rejuvenated being – the majestic Phoenix, the ultimate symbol of strength and renewal. He is like the sun that “dies” each night as it sets, only to be reborn in it’s rising the next morning.

Our mindset also undergoes a similar transformation after it frees itself from its frenzied state. When the fog clouding our better judgement has cleared and the dark clouds have moved on, our sanity returns and we obliterate all vices to rise above the turmoil created by the fury within. The resilient human spirit, having overpowered its state of delirium, emerges victorious from its catastrophic existence and rises like the Phoenix, stronger, smarter and more powerful, ready to make a fresh start.

Bringing out the phoenix in its full glory required a lot of hard work, trust me! The most distinctive feature of a phoenix is its plumage. If I were to describe it as an artist, it would be a ruff of yellow, orange and scarlet feathers, so radiant, so beautiful and so vibrant, that they seem to glow in the blaze of their own light. To bring out this brilliance, I have used the brightest tones of yellow, orange and red, the colors of glowing embers. I further enhanced this effect with an amazing technique called Impasto.

Impasto is a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the painting surface in very thick layers, usually thick enough to make the brush or palette-knife strokes visible. Paint can also be mixed right on the canvas. When dry, impasto provides texture and the paint appears to be “coming out” of the canvas.
Oil paint is the traditional medium for impasto painting, due to its thick consistency and slow drying time. Acrylic paint can also be used for impasto by adding heavy body acrylic gels. Since my medium of choice for this artwork was acrylic paints, I mixed them with modeling paste to thicken them further, thereby adding to the texture and giving the final outcome a so called 3D effect.
The modelling paste I used is good to go for both oil paints as well as acrylics ( see image below).

With acrylics, one can build up a thick, textured surface by applying the paint straight from the tube or thickening it with a gel medium. For a more dramatic textured effect, one can mix the color with acrylic impasto medium, like the one I have used in this painting. Impasto Gel Mediums are used to build thick texture. It is milky when wet but dries clear and remains flexible.

Another fun fact about impasto is that not only does it give the joy of creating innumerable textures, but also provides the flexibility to use everyday objects as wonderful tools to apply paint. You can push the boundaries of this technique with a palette knife, a brush, a spoon, a lid, you name it! In fact, I used an ear bud to achieve the finer details of the phoenix feathers…amazing right? I have personally achieved some pretty awesome textural effects simply by changing the applicator.
Another tip I can share with you all is that when you are applying your paint along with a medium, try to follow the “grain” of your painting. For example, I made my brushstrokes follow the lines of the phoenix feathers; this helped create the impression of a more realistic plume.

This technique served several purposes. Firstly, it made the light reflect in a particular way, giving me additional control over the play of light in the painting. Secondly, it made my painting more expressive, with the viewer being able to notice the strength and speed at which the paint was applied. Thirdly, impasto pushed my piece from a painting to a three-dimensional sculptural rendering. So, I managed to kill three birds with just one stone! All in all, a win-win situation for me, don’t you think?

So what are you all waiting for? Pull out those old canvases (yes, I am talking about those disastrous ones that didn’t turn out to be quite what you expected. They are perfect for exploring!) And if you are feeling brave enough, gesso them and paint over them using this breathtaking technique! Have the time of your lives chucking paint around!!