Saturday, October 22, 2016


Maybe the journey isn't about becoming anything. Maybe it is about unbecoming everything that isn't really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.
                                    ~ S.S.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mountains and Valleys

At some point, we are all headed home. 
At some point, all of this, 
everything and everyone 
became memory.
                    ~ JW

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


There are two memorable and distinctly different exhibitions on at NGMA for a short while.
The first exhibition is a sensitive glimpse into the life of Mahatma Gandhi through the lens of  Kanu Gandhi; sepia studies in spirituality and haunting simplicity. One looks at these images with reverence not just because of the subject but the way the pictures were taken. Kanu Gandhi might have used a very basic camera, but he seems to have had an almost intuitive understanding of composition. The drama that is captured is subtle and sophisticated - a thin almost imperceptible curve of light highlights the rim of the Mahatma's glasses in a composition of muted shapes - circle of head against white of shawl; a soft line of light lights up Gandhi's outstretched arm reaching out to receive a donation from the window of a train; the chiaroscuro of Mahatma Gandhi reading in the light of a lamp at 4am is worthy of an etching by Rembrandt. Through these pictures one is astounded at the utter simplicity of Mahatma Gandhi's life. The gravity of what the man achieved in such an unassuming manner is evoked powerfully and with dignity in these beautiful photographs taken by his grandnephew.

 The next exhibition could not be more different than the previous one. While one stood before Kanu Gandhi's pictures as one does in a church, Ramachandran's paintings blow the mind with their joy, exuberance, color and celebration right from canvas one.Till now I had admired the artist's line work and compositions through small images in books and even smaller images on the net but nothing prepared me for what I saw in real before me.You want to dive into these spectacular pictures and be a part of the life there. That is how beautiful they are. There is no abstraction to decipher, no angst that pervades contemporary art, no deep messages to mull over, instead there is just good, wholesome,luscious drawing. And color. The kind of color one experiences in warm, diffused winter sunlight in Bangalore which turns everything golden and mellow. Then you leave the show feeling that life is good and beautiful and all is still right with the world.


A lovely rain fell in Bogota
In its drops were lumps of sugar;
But only lovers kissing in the rain
Were aware of this.
                  ~ Juan Diego Passa

Oh the relief and sheer joy of being able to hurl myself into my sketchbook once more and muck around within its pages. Here I tried to make the text a part of the illustration and after a few accidents which I managed to turn into happy accidents, I got what I wanted: an emotion I wanted to evoke. In addition there were nice surprises which I didn’t expect – the lettering fell into place perfectly with a slight upward slant and what is not apparent in these photographs, the textures and nuances of pastel which always delight me when they emerge on paper and which give the illustration its atmosphere and integrity.

I’ve used my White Signo pen here for the raindrops and lettering. The rest is of course done with various shades of pink pastel in my lovely Canson Sketchbook which has the best paper ever.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Invisible People

This is my cover illustration for Harsh Mander's book of stories Invisible People. Stories of Courage and Hope. 
When I was reading through the manuscript, I could not help commenting to the publisher Anushka Ravishankar, how good the stories were and how absorbing to read. I also couldn't help remarking on the quality of the writing, it was excellent. The real-life heroes who make up these stories are truly people who have made their way out of the depths of despair and darkness and walked towards the light.
Do read what the author has to say at Duckbill's blog over here >

Friday, September 30, 2016


Do you think an artist has any kind of social responsibility?

No. Because an artist has more important responsibilities which have to do with the creation of works of art and works of art are not sociologically motivated nor are they even particularly useful, I mean what is the use of Alice in Wonderland? The use of it is pleasure. 
People often tell artists that you have to be responsible but that is always a way of telling them not to do what they want. The thing that people value in art is that nobody owns it. It is just the artist’s voice (or I) doing what it wants because that is how it sees things and I think you want from art a unique and particular vision of one person. And we value that because you can’t just say, ‘Oh he’s just pushing this line or she is enthralled to this or that ideology or political grouping or whatever it might be. 
The point about the artist is that nobody owns you. You just say what you have to say because that’s how you see it. And that is the value of the thing. And if people don’t like that, I’m sorry but that’s what it is. You can’t ask it to be another thing. Art is irreverent. It is not good at keeping to the rules, it doesn’t do what it is told or supposed to do. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Oil and Water

The last time I was compelled to work closely with an author was a few years ago while designing a book. The author told me that she had experience in designing. She told me that she had sat on a carpet with a couple of her friends and decided, ‘Let’s put this here!’ and ‘Let’s put that there!’ She thought it amusing to relate this to me. I won't even waste my words mentioning what the book looked like. The printed book deluded the author into thinking she could design, after all that was what designing was all about - Sitting on a carpet and deciding let’s put this here and that there.Eventually the author overrode my work with her suggestions since she was the experienced designer.People love that, waving their arms at a person sitting in front of a comp and saying: 'Change the font! Move this that side!' It gives them a sense of power and control. Needless to say we parted ways very soon. No self-respecting illustrator can work with a control freak.

Now once more I have to deal with an author and ‘his baby'. While most authors and illustrators are kept apart by editors and art-directors, this one managed to ferret his way in to give me ‘his vision’ for the illustrations. This consisted of first complimenting me on my portfolio and then systematically shooting down how I said I would be going about illustrating the book and then bombarding me with a barrage of his suggestions and reference material, none of which work for my style, the subject at hand or the composition space. Like the author who tried her hand at designing on the carpet, illustration is considered easy, as easy as all creative work is usually considered to be, as easy as: ‘Why don’t you show it from this angle like this other illustrator has done this in this picture here?' and the grand decision, 'Don't show the faces of any of the characters!' Then at the end of it all incredulously, the magnanimous permission: Please feel free to do what you like! 

Oh thank you, thank you,if you would please f*** off, let go and allow me to do just that it would save us all a lot of time not to mention the acute stress of having to justify every single thing within the illustration to you. 

An illustrator who has had award after award after award showered on him for his extraordinary illustrations and writing is far more scathing with his criticism of authors who want to interfere in every aspect of making a book. He had this to say about my predicament:
The author’s suggestions are in fact expressions of his dissatisfaction with an illustration which is not what he wants and which by the way can’t be because he doesn’t really know what he wants. And for that very reason you can comply with the punctilious cretin's suggestions until the cows come home and he will still not be satisfied.


PS: So during the month of September, the author sent me a total of 43 emails, most of them for one illustration. He telephoned me four times, each call lasting for at least half an hour where he would suggest something and subsequently  retract or contradict himself over and over and over because he did not know what he wanted, because illustration was obviously not his territory, because of his possessiveness towards his masterpiece and because he erroneously assumed that illustrators can whip up things in a style which is not their own and based on something or the other that he saw somewhere. 

Also where was the art director during this time? I have no idea.

Thanks to being more or less drowned by the author's overwhelming inputs, I was able to complete just one illustration to everybody's satisfaction. Enormous amounts of energy was expended in maintaining my patience and convincing the author rather than doing the actual work itself. I finally declined the job and the relief is enormous. Some encounters are simply an utter waste of time.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Coffee Matters

I have realized that Tea drinkers simply do not get the concept of coffee. Tea drinkers wake up bright and cheery at some unearthly hour like 5am and drink their tea meditatively while watching the sun gently rise up in the sky. In contrast, coffee drinkers, night owls that they usually are, groggily stagger to the kitchen at about 8 am, more or less incoherent until they’ve drunk their first coffee of the day. Then they tackle life with energy and gusto until the mid-afternoon crash whereupon they need to be revived drip by drip with a second coffee.

My hints to my Kerala host (would you like me to get you good coffee powder from Banglur?) simply did not ring a bell. The first morning I was given what I considered a cup of milk mildly flavoured with coffee. Not wanting to seem a demanding guest, I mumbled that it was just fine and we made our way to Fort Kochi.

Until mid-afternoon when we stumbled into Kashi Art Café, I must have been in a semi-awake stupor. When I read French Press coffee on the menu, I mentally gave it a thumbs up. It came with hot milk on the side. I poured the exact amount of each into the cup. The coffee was strong, robust and very good. When my host took a sip of my coffee she practically fell of her chair and glugged down an entire glass of water immediately afterwards to mitigate the effects. After that she kept looking at me drinking my coffee with a mixture of awe and terror and then managed to take this photograph where I am giving her the eye.

                                 Photograph by Sajana.J

The next morning at breakfast, my host pushed me down on the sofa and commanded, “Wait!” Then, like the waiter at Kashi Art café, she emerged from the kitchen with a tray which she placed before me. Placed on the tray was a mug of super strong black coffee, a small cup of hot milk and a dabba of sugar. I was ordered to drink what she had prepared. I think the expression of satisfaction on my face was enough for her. She simply said, “I used FIVE spoons of coffee powder in the filter this time!” and then she left me to drink in peace. I drained my coffee, my brain staggered towards clarity and then I looked down into my empty coffee mug and decided I was very, very touched by this thoughtful gesture.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Fish and Ships - A Visit to God's Own Country

Anyone who follows me on instagram knows that I spent four lavish, jam-packed days in Kerala where I ticked everything off my list of things to see and did lots and lots more than I ever imagined possible during my brief stay. Back in Banglur I still feel like a contented Boa digesting a large ingested animal and while I am trying to sort through the abundance of vibrant memories to make into coherent blog posts, I was unable to answer my host’s question on the second day of my return.
Where is the blog post?

Well, here is one finally, the first of many Kerala blogs, all dedicated to my superb host Whizzkid, who the moment I mentioned the words Fort Kochi enthusiastically hustled me over and gave me the time of my life. A wise traveller once said that if you do not have the right local host to show you the place, then you merely skim the surface without experiencing its true delights. In this I was utterly fortunate to find the host with whom I shared not only a similar wavelength but sense of humour as well. We like a bit of edge to our jokes here.

The first thing that struck me on my drive from the airport was how utterly lush and green Kerala is, and in the fading evening light, dotted amid the dense greenery one cannot help but notice the tiny, tiny fish stalls the selling freshly caught catch of the evening which is a must for the last meal of the day for Malayalees. No self-respecting Mallu from Kerala will eat the fish in Bangluru. It is not fresh enough for these ultra-fastidious fish eaters. (Which of course is how I behaved towards the vegetables in another country, but we won’t go there...).

When we made our way towards Fort Kochi by ferry, my host pointed out the classic Fort Kochi shoreline which I have tried to capture in this picture. I thought the colorful boat was a tourist thing, but they are actual fisherman’s boats.

Here is a selection of the photographs that I took. Some of the memorable things we did were exploring gorgeous old buildings converted into boutique hotels, visiting artists’ spaces at Pepper House, gasping at the textures of crumbling old buildings, trying out raw mangoes soaked in brine...

And another day we explored Jew Town. Here below a picture of Jew Street.

While the synagogue was closed there were plenty of other delights to occupy us. Below, a Museum boutique hotel we stumbled into somewhere along the intriguing narrow streets –

Above, booty from a Spice shop to fill up my Spice jar.

More beautiful old buildings and a visit to the very interesting Dutch museum.

I’ll save the rest for subsequent posts, but to end this one, here is a picture of dusk on the sea.

More coming up as soon as possible!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Banglur Paused

The first time I met Slogan Murugan must have been 2008. He was still Bangalorean then and still blogging at Which Main What Cross, the mysterious blogger who posted one intriguing picture of Bangalore every single day. His exhibition was somewhere in one of the crosses of Residency Road and when I parked my car and got out I had to hold my breath and levitate over a large pool of sewage water to reach the exhibition. I remember I stood at the doorway panting with the exertion when a slight bespectacled figure emerged from the shadows and asked me, “You are…?” I gasped at him incredulously. He gauged my vibe. He explained that he just wanted to be sure I was The Plum Tree.

The next time I met Murugan, he was a Mumbikar and blogging at Mumbai Paused. He had achieved blogging domination and fame and was giving a talk about his photographs somewhere on MG Road. While I was on time for the show, the hall was already packed with people. Somewhere right in front I espied a chair that was actually empty and I dived at it with the supersonic precision of an Olympic diver. A seat! Two chairs down the row, a bespectacled man leaned forward, looked at me cautiously and said, “Hi Priya!” Look Slogan I got a seat!
Later when I saw the photographs of the talk, there was the audience and in the audience was a woman with hair flying vertically above her head. I realized the woman with vertical hair was none other than I. A stand fan had been placed directly behind my chair and that is why that particular seat had been empty.

Finally after years of virtual conversations, an excellent friendship and collaboration over an illustrated story, I got to have real time conversation with Slogan Murugan yesterday. Banglur paused for a moment. There were no calamities with sewage or hair; in fact there were no calamities at all. The energy was conducive and the conversation over filter kaapi enjoyable enough to make me wish it had lasted much longer.

Here’s to good conversation and meeting with yet another blog friend in real time. Cheers!

A write-up about Slogan Murugan 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Offering

While doing my daily drawings, I decided I wanted to draw a tiger. However since it is the drawing that takes you where it wants to go, the tiger ended up making its way out of a jungle. There appeared a house in the distance and a figure beside it. Is the tiger moving towards a kill? Is the tiger coming home for an evening snack? It is for you to decide.

And in the photograph below, a tiger fiercely guards his territory with his paw.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Drawing Daily

I don't SKETCH from life as regularly as I used to and that was bothering me because I believe regular sketching is as important as practicing scales on the piano. It HONES your skills tremendously. Sometime ago another artist Rick Beerhorst, who makes very beautiful work, spoke about how he planned to do 5 drawings every single day. This is easier said than done. There is always something SEEMINGLY MORE IMPORTANT that beckons, especially when running a house (I have to buy eggs!) and there is the eternal lure of the internet. Nobody understands the tremendous amount of SELF DISCIPLINE it takes to be self-employed. But once you start drawing, simply drawing, everything else falls away. Even deadlines can wait. Drawing is a form of meditation.

I am using ordinary sketchbooks here and drawing with the local Sudha brand of charcoal. It makes me less self-conscious about the drawing so I have more fun. If I use my special Canson sketchbook or more special Moleskine sketchbook, I still have fun because the paper is so wonderful to work on, but there is the grim determination at the back of my mind that every single drawing should be a frikking masterpiece. That can sometimes become a problem when you want to try and push your drawing skills further, so for my 5 3 drawings a day exercise it is these Chinese sketchbooks that I do them in. The paper is good enough and the books look nice. If I manage to keep at my daily drawing, I will have done some 90 drawings by the end of this month, maybe more, and hopefully one day I can just whip out human figures with far more ease than I can now.