May 20, 2009

Different Strokes - Red Signal

Here is my entry for the ongoing challenge at Karin's Different Strokes blog. I have never painted a Cityscape before, though I have planned to paint a hundred! I have scores of references, my own references of very nice cityscapes, but I am very very apprehensive to get to them. A crowded scene kind of intimidates me. I get bogged down by thinking where to start and how to go about it. And that is exactly the point Karin makes in her pep talk, to break down a crowded scene and simplify it.

Red Signal
Acrylics on Canvas, 7 * 11 inches

Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

I loved this scene and wanted to do it in full. It is a scene so full of life, and I loved the long format of the image. I also had a 7 * 11 canvas lying around for sometime, so I thought I'd use that one up and do this image in a vertical format. When I got to it however, I changed my mind. I did use the same canvas, but tackled the image in a horizontal format, focussing on my most favorite parts of the reference, viz. the taxis. Such a burst of color, aren't they? As I started the background, the numerous buildings again gave me jitters. Then I squinted and squinted so many times, and all I could see was vertical lines of varying value. Looked much simpler than I thought! I am not sure if I have achieved a good feel of distance, but definitely much better than I expected myself to do.:)

Since I was too busy with my daughter's portrait, I almost missed the deadline for this one. Thankfully I remembered it just on time and got to it. I started working on this only this morning, and due to the lack of time, I was forced to keep it really simple and loose. So instead of nitpicking over too many details, I tried to bring in a feel of the scene and painted as quick as I could to finish it on time. :)

Have a look at all the entries here, they make an awesome collection.

May 19, 2009

Chasing my rainbow - updated

I was so not happy with my kiddo's portrait and I was really looking for someone to rip it apart. And no, that did not quite happen. Apart from a few suggestions from WetCanvas, there wasn't much I got. So I went by my original plan to leave it aside for a few days and then get back to it with a fresh eye. I must say that really helped. Also, till I posted it the last time, I was looking at my reference in the system and painting. This time, I took a print out of it and had it in my hand. That made a world of difference to the whole thing. Looking with the image in hand, side by side with my painting gave me a much better idea of what all I had messed up.

And then, I turned to my ever dependable dad for pointing out the issues in the portrait. Not that I could not do it on my own, but I firmly believe a fresh look helps, more so if its from him. As expected, after I mailed my daughter's portrait version 1.0 to my dad, I got some fabulous suggestions. I got some great suggestions also from my brother, who is a very gifted artist unfortunately with no online presence! My dad pointed out n number of places where I could improve, and finally said that I have to satisfy myself first. I think he nailed it with that one sentence. I wasn't even close to being satisfied with the previous version. A mother's obsession is too strong and I just could not settle with the earlier version. Not that I am greatly satisfied now, I am certainly not. But I feel I am almost there. Here is how the portrait looks now.

Chasing my Rainbow
Acrylics on Canvas, 16 * 20 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Some of the things that I have done -
  1. I have added more darks around the corner of her lips to bring in more depth to the smile.
  2. I have softened the area where the neck meets the chest, earlier it was too hard edged and I think it looks better now. So instead of looking like an attachment on the chest, the neck looks like a continuation.
  3. Softened the background a bit. One thing people at WetCanvas and my brother pointed out was that the background was kinda competing with the image. Since it could hinder with the outline of the face I could not do much, but I have greyed it down as much as I could.
  4. I have slightly increased the size of the hand and palm. I am not even sure if it can be seen, but I made the hand a little thicker.
  5. I have redone most of the hair, as I felt it was too artificial looking. It looked like it was pasted on her head, I have tried my best to correct it. I worked a little patiently, strand by strand!
  6. Oh, and most importantly, I have painted over and repainted her left eye (the one closer to the viewer) at least 6 times. The eyebrows looked terrible before, like caterpillars! I tried to soften them as much as possible. And the whole eye was done over and over again. That's why I love and hate Acrylics. While I love it for the flexibility, I sincerely believe I'd take much more care if it were an unforgiving medium. So it is not Acrylics that I hate, it is myself actually. Huh!
My reference for this portrait is a terrible one. It is an image of Teju shot indoors on an overcast afternoon, can it get any worse than that? The lighting is just as pathetic as it can get. If someone gave me such an image to do a commission, I'd just refuse. But as I mentioned, this is a mother's obsession and I just had to paint her in that pose. It was sheer luck that among the dozens of snaps I took, this one had that sparkle in her eye and caught her mood so well. So I just couldn't let it go. I played around as much as I could with the lighting in photoshop, just to get the facial features lit up a little better. I am glad I pulled it off reasonably well.

This painting also has the dubious distinction of being the one that has undergone maximum changes after I signed it. As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to schedule this one to be posted on Mothers' Day, before I went on vacation. I therefore finished this up in a hurry and signed it. Even my husband told me it was decent enough to be posted. It was only when I looked at it through the camera that I realized how terrible it was. It was a bad painting, terrible if I were to consider likeness and mood. I just put aside the camera and realized it had a LOT more work to be done. I have worked for about 10 hours on this after signing it. And with great effort it has reached a stage where I like it. I only hope I still continue to like it after a week and don't have to pick up my brush again.

May 14, 2009

Chasing my Rainbow - portrait of a princess

I generally do not take up tags on my blog, obviously since this is an Art blog and I have not yet come across any Art related tag. However, this tag is different. I am first a mother before anything else and so I am willingly taking this up, a lovely tag going around the world to list the 5 best things moms love about motherhood.

I have to say that I am no good at articulating my thoughts as well as some of my friends. Go here, here or here to read some really nicely written tags. :) I will try my best to put across what I love, though it is extremely difficult to limit it to five. I was tagged by the lovely IBH, and here goes my thoughts in no particular order.

1. I have rediscovered myself with motherhood. It is a no brainer that motherhood has made me a stronger person. My daughter has actually made me believe that I can handle two full fledged careers, a happy home, and still find time to pursue my other interests and have time for myself. She has done all this without uttering a word! Before she was born, I had time to roam around every street of Bangalore and equip myself to be a walking Bangalore-restaurant-guide. In short, all that I did was eat and sleep, and crib that I have no time for Art. All that changed miraculously and the more busy I got, the more time I had to do many more things. If not for motherhood, I am sure I'd still be a lazy bum shuttling back and forth between work and home, and nothing else worthwhile to do.

2. I feel I am actually getting younger by the day after becoming a mom. I am rediscovering the simple joys in life, I am more aware of the beauty of nature around me. I stop to notice a butterfly, a ladybug and what not. I go out and dance in the rain, jump around in snow making footprints and have no qualms about doing any of these. I have learned from my daughter to live my life as I want to.

3. Motherhood has made me a believer. In miracles. In unconditional love. It makes me want to be a better person, to make myself worthy of her infinite love. And to give back at least a percent of the love that I get.

4. I have learned to forgive. Or at least ignore if I cannot get myself to forgive. Every time I give my little one a whacking, she showers me with hugs and kisses within minutes. She humbles me with her behavior, that I really want to forgive and not harp about things/people that don't matter.

5. I get to hone up my portraiture skills by painting the most beautiful face in this world. And free of any copyright issues, how cool is that! The gratification I get out of doing her portraits is something I cannot express in enough words. The excitement in her eyes when she sees her face pop out of the canvas is priceless. I get hugs in return, and that is obviously better than any recognition my Art could ever get me. If she is in a great mood, I also get to hear nice things about my work.:) I could of course go on and on, but since the tag says only 5 things, let me stop here.

Chasing my Rainbow
16 * 20 inches, Acrylics on Canvas
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

I have been planning to do a portrait of my princess for a while now, and Mothers' day seemed a good occasion for it. It is my way of celebrating the blessing that's my daughter, and also the best gift I could give myself this Mothers' day.

I wanted to post this for Mother's day, but I was on vacation. And I wanted to so some last minute tweaks before posting it. Now I would say it is about 90% done, though I have signed it. I don't think I have done justice to her expression, the excitement with which she was chasing these bubbles. The portrait lacks life I would say. I have also posted it on WetCanvas and am waiting for any suggestions to make it better. Else I will have another look after a week, when I hope things will glare at me.

Any moms reading this, please feel free to take up the tag and post your thoughts if you wish. I am not really tagging anyone, take it up if you wish and its fun! Oh and by the way, the first title that crossed my mind when I was doing those bubbles was "Venn diagrams in the air". I was proud of myself for a moment.:)

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