December 31, 2008

My to-do list for 2009

2008 was a year that brought in some drastic changes in my personal life, that most of the time Art had to take a back seat. I quit my job and we have relocated to a different country couple of weeks ago and I am still settling down to the new place and most importantly, new weather! Its time for art again once all the dust settles down and here is a preliminary list of what I'd like to accomplish this year.
A collage of all ATCs done for a recent Art Trade
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan
1. Participate in all the VSDs this year - I love the Virtual Sketch Date and look forward to it every month. Though I started late this year, I hope I don't miss a month next year.
2. Participate in at least 10 Different Strokes projects -I love this project mainly because of the references that Karin chooses, they make wonderful subjects. She also sets the bar higher each time and motivates the fellow participants. The DSFDF project runs fortnightly, and I hope to make it on time for at least 10 out of a possible 24.
3. Paint a series of photos from my Europe trip - I had visited a lot of towns during my visit this summer and had taken loads of reference images. I'd like to start working on them instead of the photos just lying around. This would be a collection of series, with photos from every single place we went to.
4. Start selling from my blog - I have done some preliminary research and will start posting smaller works for sale. I plan to commence this shortly, in the earlier part of 2009 itself. It will be a part of this blog or I might have a separate blog for sales, I am yet to finalize on that. To start with, I will be selling Realistic Landscapes/Cityscapes done in Acrylics, around the size 8 * 10 inches.
5. Not to have an unfinished painting in my studio - this is more to do with a work culture. I have this habit of working on multiple paintings at once. When the count is withint 2 or 3 this is manageable but when the number shoots up too high, it ends up in a mess. Having seen first hand how messy things can get, I decided I need to get rid of this habit, once and for all.
6. Work on my portrait and figure drawing skills - I commit to do a minimum of 1 portrait each month, which makes it 12 for the year. If there is time, I shall do more. I also commit to work on different media for these portraits. They would be done in colored pencil, Acrylics, Graphite, and maybe in Ink as well.
7. Do some plein-air painting - I'd like to give plein air painting a shot this year. I greatly admire several artists who work plein-air and I think it will change my whole approach to a painting in handling the details and color. I know its ridiculous that I am not committing to a specific number of paintings I plan to do, but I can assess that better once I make a start.
8. Go a little easy on Art Trades - I love ATC trades, and I am quite addicted to them. I tend to jump in at the first chance if there is a trade happening, and most of the times I do this without assessing my current work load properly. While trades are great fun, they tend to take away a lot of time from my own art. I do not want to do more than two trades this year.
There are other things related to working habit, like making time for art everyday and sketching something or the other, those I don't think need to be mentioned here explicitly.
Have a colorful New Year and may all your dreams come true!

December 30, 2008

As another year goes by...

This is what I started the year with, making a set of goals for 2008. Now that we are at the end of the year, I think it's time to revisit them. Broadly speaking, it makes no sense for me to go over each of the plans and see if I have achieved them. I did not have any time for art for half the year, and most of the work this year was done in the last 3 months. However, there have been some positives worth mentioning.

Prehistoric Trade Cards
A collage of ATCs from a recent Prehistoric Trade
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan
1. Getting better at composition - I read a couple of books on composition and design elements in paintings. It gave me a great idea into what exactly is meant by "planning" a painting and doing preliminary studies. I really think I have gotten better, and that's not just by reading a few books. I tried setting up my own still life arrangements, and was fairly successful with a couple of them.
The completed paintings don't show the many different alternate arrangements that were rejected outright, but that's where bulk of the learning lies. It has certainly helped me grow and it has changed the way I approach paintings.
2. Getting my self portrait and my daughter's done - The self portrait was done for a challenge on WetCanvas. I moved out of my country recently and wanted to present my mom with a portrait of my daughter. My motivation was higher than ever to get it done, because my mom would miss her granddaughter a lot and this was all I could do. I completed it within the available time and my mom is mighty pleased with it.
Between my self portrait that was done sometime in March, and my daughter's that was done in December, I think I have improved significantly. My daughter's was a much tougher portrait but I think I did much better there. I also had a chance to look back at my husband's portrait that I had done 5 years ago when he was still my boyfriend. It looks so ridiculous now, I seemed to have just scribbled something. I'd like to have another go at his portrait maybe in the coming year.
3. Sketching from life - it was one of my plans to sketch more from life with a stress on human figures. I took part in a sketchcrawl for this purpose and also did sketches of simple still life set up usings day today objects. Cannot say I have improved greatly, because I did not spend the kind of time required for it in the first place. One thing is after the sketchcrawl, I did not sketch figures at all. I'd again like to spend time on it this year.
4. Participating in projects - I did 4 Art trades this year, and took part in the last 3 VSDs. I also did take part in 2 of the Different Strokes projects. Online projects are always great fun, besides offering some great learning as well. This was something I had not planned for at the beginning of the year, but was glad it came across.
5. Working from reference photos - Reading some books on composition and paying closer attention to composition has helped me work better with reference photos. In the last 3 months or so, I have stopped working from references from others. I have switched to using my own sketches or photos for my paintings and I am loving it so far. I'd like to continue this way and completely stop using images from others.
The biggest plus this year was my visit to several museums in Europe, during my trip this summer. It was a huge learning experience for me. Can't say it was a great year, and I certainly look forward to a much better year in 2009. Lots more art to come.

December 18, 2008

My Masterpiece

Ever since my daughter was born in mid 2006, it has been my wish to paint her. If I had captured every pose that I wanted, my house would be running out of space now. I never got to doing it though, as I was too apprehensive to try my hand at her. Whether the artist in me was good enough to satisfy the mom in me was the big question. No matter what the artist did, the mom would always feel that justice has not been done to the original masterpiece.

Anyway after mustering sufficient courage, I went ahead with it, near life size. The piece measures 20 * 30 inches. Capturing her million dollar smile was such a big challenge. Her naughty smile and her endearing eyes took much more time than I ever imagined. Neither the artist nor the mom are satisfied, for obvious reasons. While the artist feels there is always scope some improvement, the mom is quite convinced no artist can ever match her precious princess. :-)

My Masterpiece
Acrylics on Canvas, 20 * 30 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

This would not have been possible without the help of my dad, who was guiding me through every step and was pointing out minor mistakes and suggesting changes. After every time when I thought I had got the resemblance right, my dad would point out at least 2 mistakes, and so it was a very slow progress. I should quickly add though, that he did not touch the canvas and it is entirely mine.

I posted the portrait on WetCanvas and got some very valuable feedback. Almost everyone felt that the foot was oversized. It was pointed out by my dad too earlier, but since I was too engrossed in getting her face right, I did not pay attention to the foot. Also, when the see the image in real, since the canvas is quite large, the proportion did not strike me. It looked terrible though when I saw the image on my system, in a smaller size. I have now corrected the foot, made it more like a baby's than mine :-D I also made the face a tad more chubby, just one more stroke and I feel it has made a huge difference. See the updated version below.

My Masterpiece - updated
Acrylics on Canvas, 20 * 30 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

This painting has been done from a photo of my little girl on her first birthday, so she is all dressed up wearing the traditional South Indian attire. I hope I get to paint a little more of her. Your comments are welcome.

December 13, 2008

December Virtual Sketch Date

This time the VSD is held much earlier so as to accomodate the holiday season. I loved the reference, the two little cottages and the snow. But I wasn't entirely happy with the white background and foreground and wanted to give it more color. So I decided to make it an early evening shot instead of the good daylight shot that it is in the reference.

Winter Evening - Acrylics on Canvas, 9 * 12 inches
copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Check out all the entries in the Virtual Sketch Date blog on Sunday, 14th Dec. Your comments and critiques are welcome.

November 26, 2008

Sketching from life - tomatoes and jar

Started this still life from life. We got a new pickle jar and I thought I'd use it first before any pickle gets into it :-) I like still lifes where the fabric forms a part of the background also. So set up my fabric in that matter. I did the folds meticulously like those in a sari, and set it up behind my jar, so that the folds flow unidirectionally into the foreground.

Here is my sketch from life, which would be the basis for the painting that would follow shortly. The sketch is in colored pencils as usual.

Untitled - sketch from life
Colored pencils on paper
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

I am yet to start the painting, so if you have any suggestions/crits before I put my brush onto the canvas, they are more than welcome. Thank you!

November 22, 2008

November Virtual Sketch Date

This time around the VSD image is a landscape. I was not very excited about the image at first, since I was in a still life mode of late and was expecting one. :-) But had a blast doing it. I went in for a very loose style, no sketching whatsoever. Just painted as I felt like. It is Acrylics on Paper.

Shadow Play
Acrylics on Paper, 6 * 9 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Be sure to check the Virtual Sketch Date blog tomorrow to see all the entries. I am really looking forward to it.

November 20, 2008

Apples and lace - completed

Apples and Lace, Acrylics on Canvas, 12 * 16 inches.
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan
Email me for purchase info
Prints available here

It isn't easy painting from life with a toddler around. She was waiting to disturb my arrangement and I had to give up after a lot of efforts! Anticipating this I had anyway taken a backup photo of my arrangement so completed the painting from the image.

I have done more work done on the fruits, and given some final highlights on the cloth and the basket. Touched up the shadows on the table as well. This is done and signed now, and I am pretty happy with the outcome. However, any last minute tweaks or suggestions are welcome. Let me know your thoughts.

Apples and lace - some more progress

This is taking longer than I expected, mainly because of the laced cloth. It is taking a lot of time to get the laced effect, yet not go photo realistic, proving o be a big challenge. I am not fully convinced yet with the cloth, it is not done yet, but about 80% done.

My progress so far -

Apples and lace - stage 5
Acrylics on Canvas, 12 * 16 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

I would like to have your comments on the fabric, does it look "lacy" enough? Is there anything that can be improved? A fresh perspective would always be useful, so let me know folks.

November 18, 2008

Apples and lace - a minor update

Apples and Lace - Stage 4
Acrylics on Canvas, 12 * 16 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Got some work done on the fabric, have started the lace dropping down on the table. Lots more work to be done, here is the image as it is now.

November 16, 2008

Apples and lace - Painting from life

Apples and lace - Sketch
Acrylics on Canvas, 12 * 16 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

While I was cleaning up my house, I found this little basket. I found it very interesting that I was compeled to use it in a set up. There were also 5 small apples that would fit inside my palm, and some laced cloth. I was playing around with some arrangements and zeroed in on this one.

I am painting this one on black for two reasons. The first reason is that the canvas was shelved coz it had a painting that really did not take off and I am painting this over that. So I have done a coat of black and started afresh. The other reason is that I want to experiment painting on black. I have never worked on a colored surface before, so doing this just as a break.

Apples and lace - stage 2 Acrylics on Canvas, 12 * 16 inches Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

I have first done the sketch directly with white paint, a rough outline. The sketch isn't perfect but I go ahead hoping to correct it while painting. I have then done a mid-tone filling for the apples and the background. This is my usual approach that I was taught by my teacher years ago. It always works fine for me, for any painting. I first do a filling in the mid tone, and then add details with the darker values. I add the lighter values in the end and highlights in the very end. The previous still life was the first time I worked from dark to light, and with this one I am going back to my usual approach. The green seen in the picture has nothing to do with this painting, it is the remnant of what was previously on this board.

Apples and Lace - Stage 3
Acrylics on Canvas, 12 * 16 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

I have then done the table and the basket again with a mid tone. The advantage of using a black base is that the darkest values can be easily established, and that adds a punch to the painting. The shadows of the apples here for instance, I have left them as it is. Ofcourse, I will be adding some lighter values. Same holds good for the shadows in between the lace, they have been left as it is for now.

The left most apple (to the viewer's eye) is looking like it is hanging in mid air, which is not the case. I will be correcting it as I go forward. This should be done in a couple of days and I am looking forward to it. After the decent attempt with the previous still life, I gained some confidence to work a little larger (with my set up that is), so this is 12 * 16 inches on canvas. Watch this space for more updates, and I promise really soon.

Some exciting news!

I just had my first ever S-A-L-E!!! Not an original yet, I just sold a print of a painting on Imagekind. Still, what the heck, its a sale and I am rather thrilled. This is not the first time I am making money from my art. I have done private commissions, and I am also a published illustrator of a magazine. However, this rather miniscule sale is the most precious to me. That's because this is the first time I have sold something that I did for myself. Not something that a customer wanted me to do, but something that I wanted to do. The confidence this boosts up is quite unimaginable I should say. Something I did not feel even when I landed a dream job! Be rest assured I am not getting carried away, but I have this new wave of self belief instilled in me and that cannot be denied. Someone willing to pay for my art, I tell you the feeling is priceless!

This is the painting that I sold, and my gallery at Imagekind is here. I am adding more images to my gallery, keep checking it from time to time. If you find any image on my blog but not available as a print, please feel free to mail me and I will make the same available.

Moving on to other things, I have just started another still life from life. I contemplated again about the sketch and then paint approach, but decided to try another approach this time. I am painting directly from life. It is another attempt at fabric, lace this time. That is for another post altogether, and that would be tomorrow.

November 15, 2008

Thinking beyond canvas!

I love the challenge of painting on different surfaces, and it is something I keep trying from time to time. From sanded paper to light bulbs to human faces, I have tried a wide range of surfaces. Latest in this list is a leaf. A real peepal leaf that is awesome to paint on.

One still life on another!
Mixed media on leaf
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

The leaf was dried and painted on the back side. The image is done after an old masters still life, which is the easiest way to get a pleasing arrangement :-) I haven't done many florals before and I am not too excited about them in general. However, I felt this image was perfect for the shape of the leaf. The leaf is terrific for oil paint and not so much for acrylics that are water based. It absorbs more paint and lacks the lustre that it has with oil paints. The biggest challenge is to complete the painting without tearing the leaf, more challenging with my daughter around! I will not delve deeper into the process, anyone who wants to give this a shot and is looking for guidance can just shoot me a mail.

The natural color of the leaf served a very good backdrop that I decided to do without a painted background. Since I will be mounting this piece on a black backdrop anyway, it was better to leave the leaf as it was. Now my biggest dilemma is how to frame this one. I wonder if it will take varnish on it, or can it be framed without varnish? Anyone out there who can help me sort this out?

Ofcourse, your comments and critiques are welcome.

Primary Colors - Completed

Primary Colors - Completed
Acrylics on Canvas, 8 * 10 inches.
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan.

Managed to complete the still life today. Lightened up the background, on the right side. Then touched up the apple a bit adding some lighter values. Majority of the work though was on the folds, getting them in decent shape was an ordeal!

Though I had a bad photo as a back up, I did not have to really look into it. This was done entirely from my sketch and I am very happy about it. Looking into the photo would have only hindered my progress as there was a minor change in viewpoint.I had a lot of fun working on this one. Feel free to post your comments and critiques. Here is a slideshow showing the transitioning of the painting through various stages.

November 14, 2008

Painting upside down - a challenge

Walking on the ceiling!
Watercolor pencils on paper, 10 * 10 inches
copyright Nithya Swaminathan

This week's challenge at Karin's Different Strokes blog was to paint this walker upside down. In her pep-talk accompanying the reference image, Karin makes a valid point about trying to paint what you know rather than what you see. That would not happen when painting upside dpwn.

With this approach, I followed the reference and the patterns of light in it. Blindly painting what I saw! I did not alter the image in any way, as that would probably mean flipping the image and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. It was super fun I should say. I also went ahead and signed the painting as it was painted, so if viewed in the right direction, my signature would be upside down :-)

Walking on the ceiling - viewed upside down
Watercolor pencils on watercolor paper, 10 * 10 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

When painting normally, I have the habit of viewing my canvas in the mirror every now and then. That kind of guides me if I am in the right direction or not. It works like a charm especially for portraits, as mistakes will stick out in the mirror image. This time around, I had to hold my temptation from turning the image :-) That was the most difficult part of the challenge, so to say.

Here is the link to the weekly challenge, have a look at others' interpretations.

Also, watch this space tomorrow for something totally different from me. That is besides the final image of the still life.

November 12, 2008

Primary colors - painting from my sketch

When I did my sketch from life of this still life set up, I did not really plan to paint it later. I wanted to enjoy sketching and thats it. That changed now and I decided to paint it, using only my sketch as reference.

It is fun to paint this way. I get to paint my own set up without the time/light constraints of working from life. And more importantly, I get to evaluate my sketching skills as well.

Primary Colors - reference

Since this is just a beginning in a new direction, I decided to start small. This is done on a gallery wrapped canvas of size 8 * 10 inches.

Primary Colors - preliminary sketch
Acrylics on Canvas, 8 * 10 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

I have always been inspired by Celeste, one of my favorite acrylic artists. She does such gorgeous still lifes, and does them so effortlessly. One of the techniques she uses is a Burnt Sienna underpainting to block the values in the picture. She consistently gets awesome results with the underpainting and I decided to do give it a shot too. This is the first time I am trying this.

Primary Colors - stage 1
Acrylics on Canvas, 8 * 10 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

The idea is to use only only color, burnt sienna and do all over the painting. The paint is kept a little watery in areas that are lighter in value. For the lightest regions, there is more water than paint in my brush. When the colors are applied over this, getting the values right is much easier and I don't have to break my head over it.

Now onto the colors, here I have done just one layer on top of the underpainting. I deliberately kept the paint a little watery so that my values are still visible beneath.

The painting is quite "flat" now, with only 3 colors - lemon yellow for the sweet lime, crimson on the apple and cobalt blue on the fabric. I have left the background as it is.

Primary Colors - stage 2
Acrylics on Canvas, 8 * 10 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

Then I start adding details to the objects and I am almost done now with the background, and both the fruits. The sweet lime now looks like a pear, to my horror! I will fix that in the end. The apple is done I guess. The right side of the background will also be made a little lighter. Have just started on the folds, and they are driving me crazy already.

Primary Colors - stage 3
Acrylics on Canvas, 8 * 10 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

I realized while painting that I have actually done a decent job of sketching. I am able to make out most of the folds. I only wish I had taken a better photo of the set up, as a back up. But who knows, if I had such a back up, I might have never got to this!

So this is my progress so far. There is still a long way to go, and I hope to complete this today. Feel free to give in your critiques. Let me know if the fabric is all crap! Or anything else for that matter.

Testing the waters

Testing the Waters
Mixed Media on Canvas, 6 * 9 inches.
copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Karin Jurick, one of my favorite blogging artists runs a blog "Different Strokes from Different Folks" that hosts a challenge every week. She uploads an image and any artist is welcome to submit their interpretation of the image. Any medium is fine.

I love this blog and enjoy seeing the close to hundred different versions of an image every week. While I have wanted to participate in this, I have not quite found the time. Infact I have 2-3 of the previous challenges in a half done state! This time I loved this image and simply could not let it go. I have significantly modified the reference, but the essence is not changed.

The focus is on the shadows and the various colors in them. This one is done with mixed media, a little bit of watercolors, some acrylics and some CPs. It was fun. I did a rough sketch and then closed the reference. I wanted to give it a shot without seeing the colors in the photo. I followed a very loose approach, wanted to try something very different from what I usually do. I will get back to this image after a while and try to evaluate myself, though now I can say it looks decent.

Since the image is a late night image under lights, it does not reflect the true colors as they are in person. I will upload a better image in the morning. And do not forget to check out all the entries, they look awesome!

November 2, 2008

Why I strongly recommend Art Trades

In an art portal like WetCanvas, at any point in time, there would be about half a dozen "Trades" happening. These are nothing but forum projects where artists exchange original art. The media could be anything from photos to bead art.

MidNight Glow
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

Since the ATCs or Artist Trading Cards have become very popular these days, more and more artists take part in such trades. An art trade is one where a group of N artists take part, and each one prepares N-1 original pieces of art and sends it to the other participants. Whenever I get a chance, I take part in these trades. I love them and I plan to write about my experiences with Art Trades over the next couple of posts.

Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

The Kiss
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

In this post, I will write about all that I have gained by taking part in Art Trades, and I wish to reiterate that this is entirely subjective. And then I also plan to write about what it takes to participate in an Art Trade, as it requires a lot of committment from one's side. That will be in a later post.

Experimenting with techniques/media
This is by far my biggest gain by doing such projects - that I am able to stretch my boundaries and try out things I normally wouldn't. And since a trade generally involves doing about 20 cards, by the end of the project it becomes "normal" too!

Golden Twins
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

Early 2007, when I joined in for my first Art Trade, I picked up a lot of autumn references, fall colors aplenty. I wanted to work in colored pencils and did all my cards using CPs. However, I felt my CP work lacked some punch, and touched up one painting with a little bit of acrylic paints. The result was so good that I did a dozen cards in the same technique – doing it entirely in colored pencils and then with a dry brush, just indicating some leaves etc using acrylics. It became a signature style and was well appreciated.

Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

This year, for another trade, I did a lot of birds. This time I wanted to try an under painting with watercolor pencils. After a wash with watercolor pencils, I painted them over with normal colored pencils, and the results were really good. The colors were more intense. When I normally paint in a larger format, I do not experiment this much with technique. When working large, I prefer to do what suits me best. That would generally be working with Oils/Acrylics.

Underwater Exploration
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

Talking about trying out different media, all my Art Cards so far have been in colored pencil. My readers would be aware that I love the medium and try to do as much work as possible in CPs, in between my paintings. Since the ATCs are small in size, I always do them in CPs. It helps me to build my confidence to do larger colored pencil pieces. I also plan to do some more cards in Pastels and Watercolors. These are two media that I find really fascinating but have never tried myself. An Art Trade would be the right place to make a start in a new medium for me.

Experimenting with Subjects

Angel Fish
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

Just as I try to experiment as much as I can with techniques and media, I also try to do a lot of subjects that I normally would not while working large. My body of work majorly consists of landscapes and water scapes.

I have never done a large still life as yet, but I have done couple of dozens of still life Art Cards. Same holds good with birds. My fall landscapes on the other hand were more like studies. I would definitely love to do them large, and wanted to see how they would turn out.

Peeping Tom
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

My most recent Art Trade was a theme based one – I took part in an exchange titled “Under the Sea” on Drawspace. I have never done any fish before; I never really found them inspiring till date. So took part in the project as a chance to try out a new theme and I had a great time. I still cannot say I would do them on a larger format, but they were ideal for the ATC size. Super fun since I can go wild with the colors!

Fiery Orange
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

Working in a Series
This is something that I have successfully tried in all the trades I have been part of. Though there is no rule that the cards should be on the same subject, I always make it a point to do all my cards around a single subject. That really helps me explore a subject more, and I enjoy it. I have done exchanges with still life, birds, fall colors, and most recently underwater seascapes/species.

Tiger Fish
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

I am a person who finds it very difficult to sustain my levels of interest to do a series in a large format. But in the smaller format, I am completely at ease and have always made it a point to work in a series with Trades. This kind of gives an idea to my recipients as to what they could be getting in the mail, though there is always an element of surprise.

Enhancing my knowledge
Until I took part in my first Art Trade, I never knew what was "Encaustic Art". I was fortunate to trade with an artist who did such brilliant encaustics and am now a proud owner of 3 encaustics. It is not something I would myself give a shot at, but it was fascinating to read about a new form of Art and also receive something extraordinary.

Golden Fish
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

Look at Me!
Colored Pencil on Paper
2.5 * 3.5 inches
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

In my next post, I would continue with some more things that I have gained, most important of which is a trading network of sorts, with all my Art Trade buddies.

All the images in this post have been done for the "Under the Sea" exchange on Drawspace. The trade ended in October and I have all my cards sent out. Waiting with bated breath for the comments from the recipients.

October 25, 2008

October Virtual Sketch Date

The virtual sketch date is a blog event happening every month, where a reference image is posted and any blogging artist can give a shot at the image. The artists then post their attempts onto their respective blogs and link to the main blog site. It is a fantastic event, since I always love seeing how various artists tackle the same subject. This has been happening for a few months now, and this is my first entry.

Peared - colored pencil on water color paper
(c) Nithya Swaminathan

I started doing the last month's reference itself but could not complete it before the deadline. This month's reference was so irresistable that I had to give it a shot. I am glad I could complete it on time. I have a blast doing this, as I have never done pears before. They are such fabulous little things, full of character! We do not get these kind of pears here and I haven't been able to do them. I am quite happy with how it turned out and I cannot wait to see what other artists have done.

Today also happens to be the International Sketchcrawl, and though this doesn't qualify at crawling, it counts as sketching at least :-)

October 15, 2008

Primary colors

Yet another attempt at working from life, also with a limited palette. I wanted to try my hand at doing fabric, that too from life. Cannot say I am entirely satisfied with the fabric, I am sure there is a long way to go. Fabric is one of those things that I cannot seem to figure out for the life of me! It is something I really want to master. More so after my visit to the Rijksmuseum and seeing all those pieces by the Dutch Masters with jawdropping fabric.

Primary Colors
Colored pencil on paper, 4 * 5 inches.

I have used only the primary colors, and the complement of each of them. That makes it crimson red, cobalt blue, lemon yellow and Orange, Violet and Viridian green. The finish looks kinda crappy coz my daughter stepped in to the scene when it was going all fine and decided she wanted to eat that apple! Yeah, only THAT apple. So she picked it up and needless to say the other objects also got distrubed. Thankfully the apple was the one I completed first so it was ok. I took a photo of the composition and completed the fabric with the help of the reference. The patterns in the fabric were not exactly the same in the reference but I had to do with it! I hope for better cooperation from my daughter going forward ;-)

September 26, 2008

Look who is in the news!

My friend Anand Bora, a very talented and gifted Mathematical Artist is in the Economic times today. Hurray to him!
Read the article on Anand here. Have a look at blog and website.
Way to go buddy!

September 25, 2008

Sketching from life

I generally work from photographs, using them as references and most of the time sticking to the photos faithfully. Once in a while I change some stuff in photos, go in for some crops etc. Rarely do I have the urge to work from life. My only sketch from life experience is that of doing a lot of portraits, where my friends pose for me for couple of hours, and I have no issues in getting the resemblance right, I have done a pretty good job of it so far. 

Pomegranate and Peppers                                       colored pencil on paper, 4 * 5 inches.                 (c) Nithya Swaminathan

Other than portraits, I have never attempted sketching from life n a big way. The sketchcrawl was the first time I actually worked from life doing people and places while on the move and I loved it. It was very liberating I should say. I have always wanted to try setting up my own still life and trying to work from it. I was hesitant to give it a shot coz of my lack of knowledge of composition. 

Recently, I have been reading a lot of art blogs, articles, forums etc and want to sincerely avoid working from photographs, especially those taken by others. I want to call my work 100% my own from conception to execution. The first step in that direction was to pick up a good book on composition (review coming up soon), and then start working from life. This is formally my first composition from life, and I am happy for taking that step. 

I don’t have a specified studio space for myself, so I don’t have a space to create an elaborate set up with a light source etc. It sucks that the lighting always seems uniform in my house. It then flashed me that there was a reading bulb in my bed, that I could use! And that was it, I set this up on my bed J 

Some quick learnings for myself –

  • Setting up a simple, bare bones still life isn’t rocket science. This is not a learning as such, it is a reassurance. I picked up the 3 objects and tried some combinations, with a reflector, without one etc, and finally settled on this one. It took me less than 5 minutes! I realized I needed to get used to the paradigm shift of working from life by doing more of these studies, then move on to better and bigger set ups.
Grayscaled Version (c) Nithya Swaminathan
Pomegranate and Peppers

  • It tremendously improves my observation – note the red reflection of the pomegranate on the capsicum? I am sure this would not have been captured in a normal point and shoot camera, which is what I use. The reflection isn’t as intense in color as I have depicted, but I could observe that it is there. And it adds a good punch to the painting on the whole.
  • Working with a limited palette helps to get a better understanding of color theory as such. I have used only one green and one red pencil. Value changes have been depicted only with varying pressure and by building up layers using the complements.
  • I still have a long way to go in mapping color to value! Have a look at the grayscale version of the image, and there are only 2-3 values, not a wide range. In real, the shadow of the pomegranate was the darkest, the shadow of the capsicum in the front was mid tone, and that of the capsicum behind was lighter in value. I thought I had achieved it (if you see the color version they look different), but in the grayscale they all look like a mid tone. I hope this improves with practice. 
Next on my agenda is to create a painting, having only my sketch as a reference, without seeing the actual set up. It will then help me evaluate what all I have missed capturing in my sketch. 

September 10, 2008

A blog award!

The Brilliante Weblog Award’s is given to sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their design. The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogsphere.

My blog was given this blog award by Ano, thanks so much Ano. If not for anything else, it gives me so much pleasure that there is someone who reads my blog after all! Just like any other blogging tag, I am supposed to pass on this on to some of my favorite blogs. 

I am not much into blog hopping and reading these days as I do not have that much free time in my hands. My blog reading is restricted to art blogs, and some food blogs as well, since I am equally passionate about cooking as I am about painting. So here goes, in no particular order, some of my favorite blogs.
  1. Anand Bora - Anand is into mathematical art, something that I do not understand, but find it very intriguing. Having seen him come up with ambigrams for anything and everything (he ambigrammed my name in minutes!), I can say he is amazingly creative. He says he can visualize mathematical functions and the likes, isn't that awesome! His work was recently juried into one of the most prestigious Math-Art exhibitions in Netherlands, and he will soon make it big time. Do check out his blog and his latest ambigram of Google. 
  2. Priyamvada - Hers isn't an art blog, but a favorite nevertheless. I love her posts related to parenting, and I adore her patience/style/whatever in dealing with her sometimes-rebellious-but-mostly-sweet daughter. I hope to have that kind of maturity someday in dealing with people, especially my little one. Most of her parenting posts have been bookmarked by me for future reference :-) 
  3. Ferrari - Even on the days when I am really hard pressed for time and I were to check out only a handful of blogs, his would be on top of my list. Great travelogues with amazing pictures, and general posts with a nice sense of humor make his blog an instant favorite. Its like my morning coffee, hard to miss!
  4. Ano - Ano's blog is another favorite that I love to read, especially the posts about Lil D and the short fictions. I also love her occasional posts about her current favorite ads on TV, which will most of the time match my then favorites too :-)
So that's it! If I start listing all my favorite art blogs, this would turn into a very long post. I strongly recommend to check out the links on my blogroll instead, it would be well worth your time.

September 1, 2008

The Indian woman in my art

While I was digging out some of my old sketches as part of a cleaning mission, I stumbled upon this old portrait of mine, one that I really liked. It is done with only 2-3 pencils on black sanded paper. She is supposedly wearing a black sari with a red border, so I have left the black paper as it is to form the sari. With very less actual work done, this was completed in about half an hour. It is one of my favorites till date, as it was one of the very first colored pencil sketches I did and turned out decently.

An Indian Woman

Colored pencil on paper, 8 * 10 inches

Also, while I was browsing some of my work, it struck me that I have been enamored by the Indian woman in general. I have done at least half a dozen works centered around her. They are direct representations of her like this one, or in other forms like the Indian goddesses. I have a fascination with their traditional jewelry, attires and accessories specific to each state, dusky skin tones etc. These are things I do not use myself, I hate any kind of jewelry on me, but I love to paint them :-) I have a few compositional ideas in my mind/scrap book/sketch book, all of which have an Indian woman as the central figure. I don't know how many of these would get translated into paintings, I hope most of them do.It just struck me that I could almost do a series on these lines, and I am working on that.

August 11, 2008

An "unofficial" sketchcrawl - everyone's welcome!

The world wide sketchcrawl typically happens once in 3 months, and the next one might be sometime in September. The sketching enthusiasts in Bangalore are however trying to make this event a little more frequent. We are having an "unofficial" sketchcrawl in Bangalore on the 24th of August 2008. There is an event created in Facebook for the same, and you can confirm your participation here.

The previous crawl happened in July and was covered well by the Deccan Herald. So I guess the concept is getting popular on this side of the planet too. Hoping to see more artists this time around.

July 10, 2008

Some sketching in Venice

I have been roaming around a lot over the past few weekends, visiting several places in Europe. Not to worry, I would not bore you to death with all those chronicles, coz that ain't the point of this post. The beauty about traveling in Europe is that the places offer a great deal to the artist. Every other building has its unique aesthetic appeal and begs to be sketched! As for me, when I am away from my canvasses and I am dying to get hold of some paint, sketching is the least I can do and I do not want to miss an opportunity at any cost. All I need is a pencil and paper, so what is the big deal you wonder? It ain't really THAT simple if you are a parent and have a toddler tagging along with you everywhere.

The problem in traveling with a kid is that she wants everything that I can lay my hands on. If I want to sketch, she will want a pencil, if I want to drink, she will want my glass. You get the idea, don't you? So there is really no question of "diverting" her attention to something more alluring. The minute I pick up a sketchbook, she will proactively shout "Pencil" on top of her voice. One smart child I have! There ends any hope of me doing a sketch. This has been happening in every other place, and I only ended up clicking reference images, but never really got around to doing any sketching/painting.

I did not want to get put off by this routine, and decided to carry my book anyway to Venice. This place is really close to my heart, I just love everything about it. Every inch of Venice is a painting, it almost instantly "connects" with the artist. It was then to great joy I discovered that there was something more interesting to my daughter than my pencils. And that was a pigeon :-) So I managed to send her away for a while to chase and feed the hundreds of pigeons at St. Marks square, while I would spend about 10 minutes sketching the Basilica di San Marco. The St. Marks square is such a lively place, full of people and shops and of course pigeons.

Basilica di San Marco,
St. Marks square, Venice
pencil on paper

What you see above is the little sketch that I could manage in about 5 minutes. Ah! Such joy to even get to it after a long time. It is not complete, but I decided to post it anyway. I was forced to stop not by my daughter, but a waiter at the restaurant where I was happily seated. Without taking any food whatsoever :-) He wouldn't allow me to even complete it, huh!

June 18, 2008

Australian Country side - WIP

When your hands are really itching to get hold of a brush, the fact that you are unable to isn't exactly a very nice feeling. I am in that state of helplessness currently, other than a occasional sketch, I am unable to do any serious painting. So I thought it would be good to post some of my WIP pieces that are waiting for me to take them to completion. These pieces would be completed by end of August.

This is a piece I started a long time ago, around 6 months back I guess. I got too distracted with newer paintings and work coming up that this has been lying around. I got to work some more on it about a month back though. Its on gallery wrapped canvas, 16 * 20 inches.

Australian Country side - Acrylics on Canvas

Step 1 - rough initial sketch

Seen above is the initial sketch done freehand and directly on the canvas. This is also an attempt to paint as loose as possible, so I have deliberately avoided giving any details in the sketch.

I have then laid down the color for the skies, overlapping the sketch coz the trees will be done over this after drying. I do not find it good to do the trees first and then show some sky in between, it makes it very unreal.

Australian Countryside - Acrylics on Canvas, Stage 2

In the next stage, I have marked the darks with burnt sienna. These will be the darkest areas of the tree foliage, with lots of shadow. The picture has really good lighting so shadows have a crucial role to play. The rough marking of the trees looks rather crude, but it is just to guide me where the barks are. I will be painting over this in browns anyway.

Australian Countryside - Stage 3

I have then started with the leaves, and the grass in the foreground. I have kept the grass really light, as it is much more brighter than this. It is nearly bright yellow. What I have observed from my paintings in general is I don't tend to really push my darks and my highlights. It looks like I tend to stick to more mid tones, which I aim to change. Even here, I should ideally be making the shadows much darker, and the highlights much more brighter. I hope I am able to achieve that by the time the piece is done.

As it stands, this painting will not draw the attention of any viewer methinks. In the meanwhile, I have also started work on the foreground. The foreground is absolutely gorgeous with a lot of dried leaves over shallow waters.

Here is where the painting is as of now. A lot more to go, at least 2 more layers to be done. I need to then refine the skies too, right now the clouds look really haphazard. All that and more by mid-August :-)

I have not prepared a slide show as of yet, will do so after the whole painting is completed. Your comments are most welcome until then.

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