This journey was surprising. It turned out to be more complicated than I had planned. Consistently putting down something three times a day regardless of where you are is hard. It takes a certain commitment. When I was out of my studio- I noted the ‘feeling’ at the appropriate time and then came back and wrote. This exercise made me put conscious thought into how I felt. Regardless of all the events that might have happened in a day – at that point – was I happy, unhappy or ambivalent. Was there any balance – equanimity?
The start of the canvas board…
I found myself thinking in 5-8 hour chunks of time. It forced me to not let either euphoria take over or let the bad times take on higher significance than was necessary. I find that I used far more orange and not nearly enough black as compared to what I thought I would in the beginning of this experiment. Equanimity was MIA but turns out I love my life I was also able to better isolate what specific people and events trigger a ‘mood’. Just how much importance I give to those without conscious thought.
The heart that gave me hope. Can you see it?
On the morning of day 14 I was unhappy and I started to write in black and then I noticed a heart in the band of orange and reds. And a heart in red at that. Coincidental? It gave me hope but it did not lift the ‘unhappiness’. So I continued in black that morning….
I also learnt where my emotional, sub conscious and artistic leanings are. I did not set parameters on where I would write or even what size, in caps or cursive. It is interesting to see artistically in terms of positive and negative spaces what my ‘finished’ canvas looks like.
I think I can safely say that that at the end of my first 40 years – I am safe with me.
The finished canvas/board after a journey of 30 days and 90+ images…
It is strange but life always seems to have it’s own plans for me. No matter how much ‘I’ plan or try and work around – jo hona hai wohi hota hai- what as to happen will happen. Not being defeatist here but you know…
So I decided to embrace it all in march when I started a series on the ‘self‘. But more on that in the next post. I break from scheduled programing on introspection here and bring you the first set of new products that have been in the pipeline for a while. ArtByAarohi signature print slings will follow in some time on my shop but what better way to start a new product line than to ‘Pay it Forward‘.
The slings are my gift to VoSD to help in sponsoring future dog rescues.
I hope you find it in your heart to sponsor an animal in need… To sponsor a dog rescue and get one of these please click here.
These slings use new as well as upcycled and recycled fabric. The cat/dog pattern is part of the signature range from The Poonchh Collection. This sling is spacious enough to carry your essentials whether you take it to the market or out for a night partying. Since each bag comes with a black strap and a gold strap, you can ‘dress’ it up or down. Each sling comes with an ArtByAarohi Poonchh charm as well a hand made ‘stenciled dog tag’. The charms as well as the sling straps are detachable so you can interchange them with any other bag. Or just add the charms to your key ring.
It has 1 interior pocket. The lining is made with a high quality cotton and polyester blend fabric in Magenta or orange. This bag has a natural, timeless and quirky style. It really can pack in a lot!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am hoping to document my mid life churn here within the pages of my blog. I am looking to paint narratives. Story telling through pictures. I started with my friend Rakeshand his dogs. You can see that series in the preceding few posts.
I am a positive person by nature though I do go through rough spots. I have been euphoric at points in life where I felt I was on Speed/LSD or some such drug even though I was not. And I have been down in the dumps enough number of times to understand the desire to leave it all behind. To end it all as it were. But my innate love for life, for connections, desire and passion always saw me through. Having almost completed 40 years of this life while still looking forward to the next 40. I am ready to document my inner mind scape right now. To share with you a series (hopefully !!) of self portraits through different mediums.
I hope to document as best and as honestly as I can my feelings for a period of one month. The resultant ‘painting/visual journal’ will be an attempt at a portrait of my emotional self. Written in three different sets of colours on this 20×20 inch board will be my thoughts – happy, ambivalent or unhappy.
Orange/Reds for happy, Black for unhappy and Blues/Grey for ambivalent.
Notice I do not use the word equanimity but ambivalence. For if I have moments of equanimity – rare as they are – that will be depicted in white.
I will write on this board – morning, noon and night.
2 pm and
10 pm. Three times a day. For 30 days. Everyday for a month. But each time I will only write one sentence – I love my life. In different colours depending on what I feel at that moment in time.
I started this piece on the 5th of April 2015 and have been diligently keeping track of my ‘journal’. I did not want to start on a stark white background. So I dropped some blue and green paint on the board and just let instinct guide my hands. These specific colours because I thought I would follow the colour code mentioned above as I have been feeling very ambivalent and on some days even unsettled for about six months to a year now. I hope to learn something about me so the blue background is in some sense to connect to the past while I get ready for the future. The torn pieces of paper used in between are from my daughters notebook to represent continuity in change. And to show the myriad fractured events that make up the lines of my life.
It will be interesting to see which colour pre-dominates at the end of one month.
‘Please listen to me. I know what I am talking about. I have your best interests at heart. Trust me. I will go the distance with you. Nothing will happen to you while you are with me...’
I would imagine that of the 4000+ dogs that VoSD has rescued over the past few years and the near 500 that now stay permanently with Rakesh at his farm, this is the conversation he has had with each one. And he has meant and lived up to it too. Every time.
It is done with Acrylics and Charcoal on raw plywood. It is approximately 23×30 inches. I layered the base with torn paper and then put paint on it to get a sort of background ready to work on. The colours for the back ground came out of no specific thought or structure, just instinct. In hind sight it is interesting that it has the colours of my country. More so because while I am very patriotic, I know Rakesh cares deeply for our country and her people too. He is always trying to make things better for those less fortunate and believes progress lies in education. Rakesh is the founder of Mi TWB, Free Science and The Voice of Bangalore.
On a backdrop of torn/shredded/scattered, I wanted to paint a picture that is whole and complete in itself. No matter the jagged edges.The endeavour is not to be photo realistic but to capture more. Intensity. Honesty. Hard work. …and Love.
There is nothing more wonderful than waking up to a wet nose sniffing at your neck. OK, there are a few but you have to admit it’s pretty up there in the ‘feel good’ ranks. Anyone who has ever had a dog will tell you that. I have almost always seen Rakesh with dogs. Not one but many. They are exuberant with him and restful. Sometimes boisterous. Sometimes very possessive. But there is always uncomplicated and comforting love.
I wanted to paint that. That feeling of coming home to comfort no matter how much and how many times the world beats you down. You get up and start again. And in between those hard times is a deep, warm comforting breath. That one deep breath that allows you to center yourself.
So here is one of a wet nose and questing snout.
This portrait is done in Acrylics on hard board and is approximately 24×48 inches. The hardboard is reclaimed from a previously unfinished work. I layered it with torn paper and then started work on it with charcoal. The paper used is from my daughters old school note books. On a backdrop of torn/shredded/scattered, I wanted to paint a picture that is whole and complete in itself. No matter the jagged edges. I first thought of using papers from law books or even rules regarding animal welfare in India. But finally thought that the innocence of childhood was a better connection to work with. I had also painted the dogs in greater detail but then went back and obscured them a little.
The endeavour is not to be photo realistic but to capture more. Dust. Dirt. Grime. Sweat. Hard work. …and Love.
I asked my husband and kids – what do you think the dog is saying to Rakesh? And their answer was – ‘I looooove you‘. Though it was said with a scrunched up face and a gooey mushy voice. I think the little one is saying that too. But over and above the love I also see joy, devotion and expectation.
Do you see the love, the unquestioning and single minded focus? The expectation? It is like the doggie is saying – come lets play? Or maybe just spend some time with me? Can you imagine the stance of this doggie as he asks – ” Now papa, now. Can we play?” And to me Rakesh in this portrait looks indulgent but in a kind of resigned way. ” I want to but abhi nahi….”
All of his doggies – his sons and daughters look at him like that. With eyes only for him. He calls himself their ‘papa‘. He is like any father, strict and disciplinary in parts and totally indulgent in others.
This is painted with Charcoal and Acrylics on canvas. It is approximately 20×20 inches. I used an older canvas that had a face from my sadhu/mask series. I did not like how that came out. The expression was all wrong. It showed the worst in a person. So I decided to turn it around and paint love on it. Wipe out the negative and bring in the positive
And the irony of using the terminology of ‘mug shot’ for this individual – honest and straight forward – is not lost on me. C’est la vie. But such is life as they say. What does not kill you will only make you stronger!
This next portrait is like a snapshot in time. For me it is a blend of reality and fantasy. Of what lurks in all of us and what civilized veneer we are compelled to put on it. It is like a mug shot of one of the characters of those movies he loves so much. Him and yet not him. A reality far removed from reality.
This portrait is done in Acrylics, pencil and charcoal on reclaimed hardboard. It is approximately 12.5×12.5 inches. I had painted the background black to begin with and then decided against it. So I scrubbed some paint off and added more primer/gesso to the background. it is white and not quite white. Just like all of us with many shades of grey…
When I first conceived of this narrative series on Rakesh, it was based on a photograph that I saw on his Facebook profile. It was slightly fore shortened and distorted. And yet something about it made me think of the years that I have known him and the cards that life has dealt him in those years. His face shows that experience.
I started a trial sketch on a piece of discarded plywood that I had lying in the studio from another project. I did not even prime it. I just started. It took at least 25 passes of paint to get this level of detail. Why? Mainly because the raw plywood kept soaking in the paint. It would sort of look faded or worse start to seep along the grain of the wood.
It became a fight between the wood and me. I knew if I could finish this to a detailed enough sketch and not give up half way, I would stick through the series on him. I would go the distance to show me/him/you the story of this man as honestly as I understand it.
And in my mind, some how the process and the many hours of working through these 25 odd layers was my earning the right to work on this series in my own eyes.
This is the ‘trial run’ first of the series. It is done in Acrylics on raw plywood. It is approximately 4.5×6inches. The painted face itself only covers about 2×2.5 inches. It took about six hours to paint. As I said the plywood and I fought quite a bit!
It does not look completely like him but it did the job it needed to as an exploratory sketch. I was able to glean proportions and structure. This trial run exercise was less about getting a likeness of the face and more about just looking at him. Really looking and letting my mind and eyes learn the shapes and their relationship to each other better.
I have said this often and say it yet again. An uncomplicated hug makes even the hardest day more bearable…
I have known Rakesh Shukla for many years now. Over the last few years I have seen him change and get more and more immersed in what is his passion- dogs. He is the founder of The Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD). The Poonchh Collection was inspired by him and as such my foray into painting dogs was also because of spending time with his dogs. I have painted many a dog for VoSD. And have painted portraits of him before as well. You can see them here and here. So it seemed a natural progression to paint the two together.
But I did not want to paint a ‘sterile’ picture that just showed him or the dogs as they ‘look’. I want to try and capture a feeling. An essence that is him and his relationship to the dogs. My work is usually very detail oriented. This series of narrative portraits is an effort to break away from surface detail and to also use the support itself to convey some meaning.
The last two years have been tough on my friend. And as a bystander, it has been difficult to watch. But they say adversity truly shows you the mark of a man. And I see him stand tall in spite of it all. I will not go into details of what, how, when and where. That is not for me to share. But I find no matter how much people pull him down, try and malign his reputation, work at eroding his hard work, but they can’t touch the core of the man. His love for the dogs and their boundless love for him.
“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”
― Woodrow Wilson
“You can usually tell that a man is good if he has a dog who loves him.”
― W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Journey
Dogs are a very good judge of character they say. They sense the essence of a person. And it says a lot about Rakesh that he has nearly 500 of them. They love him unconditionally.
This painting is the first in a series of narrative portraiture that I have been working on the past few months. It is done with Acrylics on plywood. And is approx. 10×30 inches. The plywood is raw and unfinished. Much like the situation I think he finds himself in. I layered it with torn paper and then started work on it with charcoal. On a backdrop of torn/shredded/scattered, I wanted to paint a picture that is whole and complete in itself. No matter the jagged edges. The endeavour is not to be photo realistic but to capture more. Dust. Dirt. Grime. Sweat. Hard work. …and Love.
I am at that point in my life where I find myself questioning things. I turn 40 this year. This month actually. And strangely enough I have no problems with white hair or even the wrinkles I see crinkling the corners of my eyes. Although I do find myself wanting to know more – about many things. Everything in general and some things in specific. It is not existential angst. For I am not lost or forlorn. I DO think that life has meaning. That it holds value. Love and laughter.
I think I am going through growing pains if I can call it that. Metaphorically experiencing a growth spurt in a sense. I no longer feel the need to paint pretty pictures. The story was always important. Now even more so. I see so much hold that the past has on the present and so much that it can do to change the future. Yes, esoteric and all that. My friend Roopa Paitells me I am finally ready to learn from and follow the Gita. Maybe I am.
I am hoping to document my mid life churn here within the pages of my blog. I am looking to paint narratives. Story telling through pictures. Over the next few posts I hope to share many stories with you. Portraits and self portraits. This first set is a narrative series on Rakesh Shukla. To feel more than just surface colour or marks. To feel my ‘subject’. Do I identify with his/her story.
So many of my friends (who are allowed into my studio) asked why are you painting Rakesh? I am not. I am painting his story. In that story I see connections to so many others from my past. Just people that skimmed the edges of my life and moved on and then those that had a lasting impact. Each important. Each complete. Each with a story to tell. I just started with the one closer home. In that Rakesh lives in the same complex as me and The Poonchh Collection which has been so much a part of my life came to fruition because of him.
But truth be told. Rakesh and the series on him was an escape for me. For the last year, definitely the last six months – I have felt a churn in my life. But I was not yet ready to share/document/divulge/lay bare my soul. So much has happened…
I am ready now. I share with you my inner journey in the form of my life and thoughts as marks on canvas and paper. My moods driven by colour…
I leave you with an image of a painting my daughter did. We talked about life and this is what she came up with. A small piece of black card paper left over from a past project. She decided to add colour to it. The dots are coloured clay . I could wax eloquent about possible metaphors in this but I will instead leave you to make your own connections.
I would love it if going forward I could do more collaborative work. Share thoughts and work with others. Let’s see how that goes. Do take the time to go through the next few posts as I post them!