Category Archives: narrative story telling

Kathakali as Krishna

Many years ago I got a request from  a fellow blogger asking permission to use an image of my first Kathakali painting on his blog with due credit to be given of course. I said ‘yes’.

Cut to the beginning of this year – that same gentleman wrote to me. He requested a painting for his new home. He wanted a painting depicting a Kathakali dancer as Krishna. And the painting needed to be ready in time for the house warming ceremony.

I was touched and humbled. I was also a tad bit daunted by the very specific list of what the client wanted. He was very specific about the pose the dancer had to be in, his dress, his headgear with peacock feathers etc. The difficulty arose from the fact that the amount of wall space available versus the final proportion of the painting incorporating all that he desired would not match. So I had to crop out the headgear and the peacock feathers from the final image composition. But I did find a way to incorporate it in the final canvas 🙂

This painting was a pleasure to paint. And that it went to someone who obviously loves the finished work and has given it pride of place in his house… I could not be happier.

Do have a look at the progression videos of both the final painting and one of just the face developing. These two videos along with many others are also up on my Instagram feed.


I leave you with images of the finished painting as it rests in his beautiful home.

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The Fusion Projects

Collaboration.

Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit. Collaboration enables individuals to work together to achieve a defined and common business purpose. – (this was the first result for the definition in Google)

There are some ideas that need to be worked on from multiple angles. A multi-pronged approach as it were. They need skill-sets that one may not necessarily have in house or have but they may not yet have reached the level of refinement needed to bring that idea to fruition.

I usually work alone. I have worked with others only in a very limited capacity. Though I have always felt the need to bounce ideas of someone else. Supreet Singh – my husband, friend and in many ways my partner in work has always been that. And my dearest friend Meghna Vakada has been the one to be brutally honest with feedback when I needed to see the light.  She has been at the receiving end of many ideas that needed talking thru to just refine the idea to a point where I could run with it.

But it was time to let others into my circle. To push boundaries. So collaboration with others was a natural step in the progression of my work. Both for the work itself and for my own individual growth as an artist.

I am happy to say that this year I finally decided to take the plunge and collaborate with others in a more serious way.  Collaboration allows for ideas to reach that one step higher that would have been difficult on my own. I have always wanted to mix materials and genres but have often realized that I may not have a level of refinement yet in every area of skill and knowledge that is needed. Working with others allows accessing of ideas/thoughts/skill and knowledge across metaphorical borders. What would a graphic designer and a weaver create. Or an architect and artist/sculptor. A wielder and a silk screen artist. Maybe even a writer or lyricist with thread work… these are areas of art and collaboration that excite me and make me want to explore.

Yes, Collaboration is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to realize mutual goals. But it is more similar to, but more closely aligned than, cooperation, and both are an opposite of competition. Collaboration for me works because the parties involved respect each other and their work. Their goal is to put their best forward. It is a desire to get the best outcome of ones craft.

The first in the series of my endeavor will be out soon. Wait for it.

But till then..

The Fusion projects is an initiative for collaborative experiences with others across genres and mediums. If you think there is anything you and I could work on which would benefit from both our combined experiences/skill sets/ vision than write to me at aarohi@artbyaarohi.com

As has long been said ‘no one is an island’.

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One Word

How do you wrap up a day in just one word? One word to reflect what that particular day had been about. No prefix, suffix or explanations of any kind. Just the word. The one feeling or thought that could define how 24 hours shaped me as a person, guided my interactions with others or plain just kept me bound within my own mind.

Earlier this year I decided to end everyday for a period of 30 days with just one word at the end of the day. I wanted to see if I could narrow down on what the most important, overwhelming or in your face action, act or interaction had been for me on that given day.

I did it. Religiously. Everyday for 30 days. Much like this experiment which ended here.

Starting 4th April 2015 to 4th May 2015.
This is what I have –
4 – Hope
5 – Camaraderie
6 – Paying my dues
7 – Exhaustion
8 – Conversations
9 – Resignation
10 – Revelation
11 – Exasperation
12 –  Journey
13 – Pain – Hope
14 – Exasperation – jubilation
15 – Possibilities
16 – Hope
17 – Unsettled
18 – Insightful – Hope
19 – Clarity
20 – Sadness
21 – Sadness
22 – As good as it gets
23 – Overwhelmed
24 – Joy
25 – Joy
26 – Nostalgia
27- Acceptance
28 – Hope
29 – Love
30 – Perturbed
1 – Fatigue
2 – Connections
3 – Acceptance
4 – Beginnings

While writing that one word at the end of a given day I was able to pinpoint with acute clarity just which person or incident had taken up the most mind share on a given day. And in turn realize who or what is able to ‘push my buttons’ – who was I giving my power away to.

The word I wrote at the end of everyday was true, with out artifice and as representative of that day as I could think of.  I learnt something and it surprised me. Today a few months after that experiment has ended, I find that I can no longer remember why I wrote a particular word. What action or incident happened or did not for me to have used that word.

Which made me realize that I had been allowing people, places, things, action and even inaction to take on greater meaning on a given day. Something could ruin it for me or make me almost ecstatic. And in reality it had no meaning the next day! I needed to learn to live in the moment and then let that moment go. Just because something good happened I did not need to walk on a cloud for a week OR because something did not go as planned – I definitely did not need to stay in the dumps for longer than the few minutes it should take me to rationalize the situation in my mind.

Change is good. And I needed to learn to embrace it.  It is a work in progress though – much like life itself.

Why am I posting this now after so many months? It is because I needed the reminder. The words for the last few days would be brutal, broken and raw. And I need to remember that this too shall pass…

changeIsGood

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The lines on my face

I read this in a book the other day and I can’t stop thinking about it. Literally. I love how the words string together and somehow the simile connects on a visceral level.

“.. life is a portrait. It’s a picture you paint everyday, every minute, every second, with the palette you were given at birth. It’s an expression of yourself, whether you want it to be or not. Make sure it’s a picture you are proud of..”

For a while there I found myself thinking about all those men and women who have somehow aged so gracefully that there seems to be a beacon shining from within. I just hit 40 so vanity demanded I look in the mirror and assess. Yes – I have wrinkles and ‘bad skin’. Crows feet and lines on my face. My hands have veins popping out and the skin is dry most of the time. Truthfully – I got worried there for a bit.

Ok – Deep breath. Inner calm.
I need to work with the palette and get control on my colours, school my expressions better and so on.

It did not work.

Deeper breath…

And then I got thinking again. This is me. My face. My body bears the marks of my journey through life. My palette has not always been of jeweled tones and candied hues. There have been harsh greys and some blacks too. But if you look closely enough there are more laugh lines than frown lines. The crows feet appear every time I smile. The bad skin tells me just how passionate I am – the hormones that still go crazy and pour out on my skin. The dry skin is a result of years of love with my paints, thinner and acetone. It is an outcome of the many times I forgot to put moisturizers and creme because the smell and feel of paint and thinner was too seductive to wash away. I wrote of me some years ago… you can read that here. You can also read more here.

I will still try and paint a portrait worth looking at. It is a work in progress. I have a few more years yet to finish it I hope. But I do believe the current version is an honest reflection of me.

Does your ‘portrait of life’ reflect you?

I thought I would leave you with a portrait of me I did some years ago as well as a link to an animation of one I attempted later…

Note- Not the best quality photograph. The painting is more vibrant though and me even more so in real life – I promise! (tongue firmly in cheek here)

Aarohi

Aarohi

 

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Equanimity was MIA but…

See my 30 day  journey unfold…


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…ArtByAarohi_APR2015_ILML_02

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…Artbyaarohi-iLoveMyLife-Final-April2015

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I love my life

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 Rakesh and 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.
9 Am.
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.

ArtByAarohi_APR2015_ILML_02

   

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.

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Trust me

The conversation.

‘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.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshOrangeDash-final

This painting is one more in a series of narrative portraiture that I have been working on the past few months. Story telling through pictures. Rakesh Shukla is the founder of The Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) and the inspiration behind The Poonchh Collection.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshOrangeDash2

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.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshOrangeDash1

 

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Wet nose

Continuing in the series of narratives – story telling through pictures – the effort would be incomplete without a questing, trusting nose in connection with Rakesh Shukla. Rakesh is the founder of The Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) and the inspiration behind The Poonchh Collection.

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.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWith2Dogs

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.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWith2Dogs1 ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWith2Dogs2

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Eyes only for you

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.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWithRakhee-3

 

This painting is one more in a series of narrative portraiture that I have been working on the past few months. Story telling through pictures as it were. Rakesh Shukla  is the founder of The Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) and the inspiration behind The Poonchh Collection.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWithRakhee1

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 🙂

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWithRakhee2

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The mug shot

He jokes about a rugged man who can trace his roots to Azamgarh. Quotes often from Anuraag Kashyap films like Dev D and Gangs of Wasseypur. He can and does draw parallels with real life to plots from Vishal Bhardwaj films like Omkara, Haider and Ishqiya. Wears a gamucha  around is neck/face when he works with his hands on the farm. And got a buzz cut when life got heartrendingly harsh.

Continuing in the series of narratives – story telling through pictures – the effort would be incomplete without a straight on Omkara-esque kind of portrait in connection with Rakesh Shukla. Rakesh is the founder of The Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) and the inspiration behind The Poonchh Collection.

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.

ArtbyAarohi-RakeshWithGamchha

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…

ArtByAarohi-Gamucha-Rakeshdetail-1  ArtByAarohi-Gamucha-Rakeshdetail-3 ArtByAarohi-Gamucha-Rakeshdetail-4

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