Tanjore- ummm sure.

Tanjore painting is really hard.  There are lots of steps and you need lots of patience to create one.  I took a Tanjore class in Chennai for about 6 weeks and I didn’t even finish.  I can see how this art is looked on with great respect.  Everything about the painting needs to be perfect from the very beginning.  I spent hours on this painting and I didn’t even get to the painting part.  I have my work, and will finish one of these days.  This style of painting is still practiced, but they are very time consuming and it takes professional artists hours and hours of painstaking skill to create one that is masterful and full of beauty.  My teacher’s work was amazing.  You could instantly see that his work was of high value and really special.  His paintings were also four times as big as the small one I didn’t finish.

At times when I was working on this I thought it was really labor intensive, but I had to remember it was also meditative.  You could do nothing but focus on what task you were doing.  You had to pay attention to only that part, or else you would probably make a mistake.  Oh– and I made plenty.  Some days I was there for 4 hours working on the placement of the stones, or putting on extra putty to make them stick.  By the end of the class I felt like my back was stiff, my arms were stiff, and my fingers were going to fall off!

But I still worked at it, it was a great challenge for me to undertake, just so I could see what it was like to create such a piece.

I also met some great people along the way.  The arts center was a fun place.  At the times I was there, I always talked with the other students and teachers.  It was a great environment to be a part of and I thoroughly enjoyed working there.

IMG_1581
Start with an image and a board.
IMG_1582
This board has already been prepared for me, lots of primer and several pieces of muslin. You have to measure a border, which is actually a common practice in school too.
IMG_1584
Here is what the back looks like.
IMG_1586
You draw an image on tracing paper and then transfer it to the board. Things need to line up or else something will be cut off later.
IMG_1589
After the image is transferred you begin adding stones. I added too many in the middle.
IMG_1614
Then you cover them with muck. It adheres to the board.
IMG_1618
With the muck, you also build up other areas to create a relief on the surface before the next steps.
IMG_1645
And then you add more muck.
IMG_1697
Then you can add some more decorative stones on top of the muck to had added height and of course – fanciness.
IMG_1718
You can get elaborate, but you don’t want it to be garish.
IMG_1912
Here’s a different view.
IMG_1916
Next it’s all about the gold leaf. Yes, there is real gold in there, so don’t waste it.
IMG_1918
This is a stressful part, because you have to cover all the areas well.
IMG_2024
Once you have all the areas covered, you begin cleaning off the stones and cutting away the excess
IMG_2027
You keep working on removing the excess.
IMG_3074
And keep working on removing the excess.

I just realized, I don’t have a picture of the rest of the steps. I’ll have to post a finished piece when I have it finally completed.  As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes on in creating a Tanjore painting.  It is a dying art and it’s hard to find masters that can teach you the proper steps.  It isn’t to be rushed, you can’t finish this kind of piece in a few hours, and it takes time to perfect.  I was glad to have the experience and to understand how much work it takes to complete just a small one.

The other people who were in this class with me were creating pictures for their homes.  People who create paintings such as this have great respect for the art, but also the art serves as a function for people who practice Hindusim, it is a blessing to have one of these paintings in your home.  As you may guess, there are popular images.  Many of Ganesh, like my example, but also Krishna, Durga, Rama and Sita, and others.

An arts camp, with the future in mind.

I took thousands of pictures while I was in India on the Fulbright. I carried my camera around with me wherever I went. The one time where I ran out of memory and battery power was the time I spent at the arts camp in Kuppam at the Agastya Foundation. I wanted to record everything I witnessed all the days I was there. The Kanavu Pattarai arts camp was something I wasn’t sure I was going to experience. Fortunately, I did. The experience was something that I will never forget.

This particular Kanavu Pattarai camp is supported by collaboration between the NalandaWay Foundation and the Agastya Foundation. NalandaWay provides the teachers, the curriculum, the resources, and Agastya Foundation provides the space. The camp pulls from near by towns. Both boys and girls, ages 13-16, attended this camp. It was not a residential experience but a day camp for 3 full days.

The first day students were introduced to each other and jumped right in on camp activities. The teachers organized the whole camp, and when there was some spots that needed an activity I filled in with yoga and a quick lesson in making origami cranes. I also participated in a trust exercise, which was really fun for all of us.

All the students were extremely excited to participate. They made a large amount of art in just three days, and presented on topics that were important to them and their school community. It just goes to show you, that when students are given a chance to perform, act, interact, create, make, design, and do—THEY WILL! Most of the students were really into the arts projects and produced a lot of amazing work together.

Collaboration is a big piece of the puzzle for this kind of camp, especially since the goal is to build a community of peers. One of the best parts of the camp for me was when the students were tasked with creating a group song. It was a huge challenge. Many students were very happy doing visual arts, or even making posters, and speaking. BUT singing? That was a big leap for some of them. Many of the students didn’t know what to do, or how they should attempt that particular task. However, there were a few girls who would not give up. While the group took a break from song writing, a couple of girls stayed back to finish the melody and lyrics. They were the only ones in the building, and I don’t think they were even aware that I was paying attention. What I saw was true collaboration, respect for one another, and the desire to come together to accomplish the task. These girls continued working on the song until everyone came back in the room. They shared their lyrics and taught the whole group of students the melody of the song. The other students were amazed, excited and couldn’t wait to be a part of the musical task once again.

As a group they practiced (led by the girls and a few other boys). The way the girls problem solved and helped their fellow peers was amazing. They reached out as a team to put something together that would bring a lot of joy to everyone in the whole entire room.

On a whole, this group exhibited a wide variety of talents and problem solving skills. I thought that this was a strength because they all had a particular way to exhibit that strength. It made the group of 30 kids extremely strong.   Students exhibited a lot of empathy and compassion for each other. Most times when one member of their group was having difficulty another would job in and say,” Maybe we try this?” The students always seemed like they were looking for ways to solve problems, think creatively, use the set limitations to their advantage, think outside the box to use limited art materials in a new way, and most importantly not give up on the project or each other. Only a few students really needed some extra help, but I think it was only because they had never had this much going on at once. Not much exposure to arts, not much exposure to group work and collaboration.

The Kanavu Pattarai camp is much more than a few days for kids to get away from school and have fun. This program is creating ways for kids to build their self-esteem, gain leaderships skills, practice problem solving, and be more self- aware. Without the arts, students are unable to see some the values that already exist within themselves. By providing arts camps, NalandaWay is essentially strengthening the school communities. The students who participate in these camps take everything back with them and share it at their school. They are able to talk about their experiences and show what they accomplished by participating in the camp.

 

IMG_3493
The camp space.
IMG_3519
Student receiving a welcome pin!

IMG_3513IMG_3529IMG_3560IMG_3559

IMG_3543
Camp rules.
IMG_3574
Students creating their small group poster.
IMG_3619
Student beginning work on her self portrait with a tiny mirror.
IMG_3631
Decorative self portraits.  Using color and pattern as symbols.
IMG_3643
Students had a lot of discussions with each other for collaborative projects.

IMG_3640

IMG_3652
Working on their community poster, discussing issues that are important to them and their community.

IMG_3654IMG_3670

IMG_3682
Presenting their community posters to all the other groups.

IMG_0599

IMG_0629
Me!  Teaching origami cranes, step by step.

IMG_0647IMG_0703IMG_0683IMG_0706IMG_0735

IMG_3735
Uma and I on a tour around Agastya.
IMG_3744
All the camp goers and the teachers.
IMG_3746
The lovely girls who put the song together.
IMG_0814
Traveling to the camp spot.

IMG_0824IMG_0849IMG_0856IMG_0860IMG_0917IMG_0926

IMG_0929
Shadow puppets to tell a story.
IMG_0954
Clay figures.

IMG_0957

IMG_0960
Trust game– “Crazy taxi”.

IMG_0972

I was delighted to collaborate with NalandaWay on this program. I was able to expand the camp to five days, and add additional components like yoga and mindfulness. The more time we spend providing meaningful programs for youth to connect to each other and their own communities, the stronger we build the future for all of us.

Save

Road trip to Camp

The major highlight of being involved with NalandaWay Foundation was being able to attend, observe and help facilitate an arts camp called Kanavu Pattarai (dream workshop).  The purpose of the camp is to immerse youth in community building strategies. By using arts based and mindfulness practices, Kanavu Pattarai camps educate and train diverse communities to create responsible children who are expressive and positive in their choices.

Before we arrived at the camp for this session, our group stopped along to visit some other groups at some different schools who had already experienced Kanavu Pattarai in previous sessions.  The kids had recalled what they learned, shared with us the art and skits they created during camp.  I even got to facilitate some group yoga practices.  What a treat!

The best part for me was being able to interact with the kids, and noticing how receptive they were to my presence and trusting me to guide them through some poses.  What a warm reception and some stand out, unforgettable moments.

Here is a glimpse of some of the students I met, the schools I visited, and what they shared with us:

IMG_3315.JPG
Students were game for a few yoga poses.  Tree pose is always a good one to try.
IMG_3322.JPG
In Andhra Pradesh, the land is a lot drier and rockier.
IMG_3324.JPG
Mural painting is big everywhere you go, although this one is fades, it’s still beautiful.
IMG_3342.JPG
I had a chance to visit a girls school, the whole school was bright, cheerful, and boasted lots of arts integration.
IMG_3353.JPG
Meeting with a group of girls who participated in a previous camp.
IMG_3389.JPG
We also visited a residential school.  These kids were energetic, lively, and so friendly.
IMG_3397.JPG
Listening carefully to a few members who were speaking about the importance of the arts, but also how the arts can be a catalyst for social improvement among peers.

IMG_3399.JPGIMG_3390.JPGIMG_3367.jpgIMG_3359.jpgIMG_3347.JPGIMG_3311.JPGIMG_3309.JPGIMG_3302.JPG

IMG_3295.JPG
Part of the camp process is to create a banner to bring back to the school.  This group worked hard to create a message about equality and acceptance.

IMG_3285.JPGIMG_3282.JPG

More to come from this trip. Stay tuned.

New Studio Space

Just wanted to share the good news! I was juried into the Workhouse Art Center in Lorton Virginia as a studio artist and I finally got to claim my space.  Sure it still looks a little rough around the edges, but have no fear!  This week I’ll be making it my own.  Remember, this place did used to be a prison.

13248390_10153831939528743_7012631581678216718_o.jpg
Yep, still looks a little prison-y.  But not for long.

Published!

Before I left the US for India I was contacted by a magazine because they saw my art at a local art show.  A few months later, and they’ve published my artwork! I’m so pleased and excited to see my work in print.  Although, this picture was sent to me by wonderful next door neighbor at home.  I haven’t actually seen it in print yet! But I’m looking forward to it when I get home.

So many lessons are learned from past experiences.  I was unsure about putting my art out into the public sphere, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have other opportunities to share my work.  Sometimes life is about taking risks.  But it’s also the support I’ve had to take those risks.  Along the way I’ve had people saying,” Do it”, “Why not”, “Go for it”.  And they’re right, what do you have to lose?

Sometimes you have to take unexpected twists in turns to learn more about yourself and what is around you.  The rewards, even if they turn out in unexpected ways are sure to be a learning tool for next time!

So here it is, Confluence 1, printed and published:

IMG_0133.JPG

Big news!

Artomatic was a great way for me to get my artwork out there and visible to the public.  This past week I’ve been e-mailing with many people who made contact me through that forum.  It’s been great to hear the feedback and have people share interest in the arts.  It’s great motivation to keep making art, and exploring the different facets of theme I’m working with.

One of the most interesting new developments is a surveyor magazine has taken an interest in my work.  the magazine called xyHt has reached out and have offered to publish my work in their magazine in the spring! I’m so excited about this opportunity and honored that they would like to showcase my “maps” in a magazine that covers map making and data collecting in reality!

So, I better get to work.  Those partially-finished paintings won’t finish themselves!

IMG_5536