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Edited to add: Submitted post for Shruti’s Artsy-Craftsy June 2001 Folk art challenge.

Artsy-Craftsy Challenge

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The very first time I heard this term was in 2003. I was experimenting with various mediums. I took my Tanjore painting of Krishna and Balram to my oil painting class, people were impressed by the richness and details. That’s when some one popped the question, “Is this folk art? Some thing typical of India?”. Though I had no clue about the exact definition of folk art, some thing prevented me from saying yes. I thought hard and answered, “Well, it is more like traditional art, practiced in the southern part India.” Though I had answered the question, I had no idea about the difference between folk art and traditional art and why I chose the later term to describe my painting. But something was planted in my mind regarding the different art forms of Indian art. Ever since, people who have know me would have heard me say, “I am looking for books on Indian art that are intrinsically India.”

For the past couple of months I have been looking at Tara’s website, which by the way is my new pass time, and I must say that I am mesmerized. All their books have a unique theme and the vibrant book covers tempted me to hit the ‘Add To Cart’ button. It was at this point I happened to clean one of book storage bins and I almost squealed in delight. There, it was lying at the bottom of the bin was Tara’s BEASTS OF INDIA! I must have bought it in my recent India trip and must have completely forgotten about it or the book fairy must have paid me a visit. (In case if it is the book fairy, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, thanks for this book and all that, but you really must look at the complete list. I so want to own DO! Also by Tara.)

The book has been reviewed for Saffron Tree. Find the review here.

How can we let this inspiration pass. So we combined it with the festive atmosphere of the Lunar New Year and Satish’s review of Everyone Knows What A Dragon Looks Like and we made our own paper dragons.

First what we talked about how every one imagined their dragons. Prominent features like big eyes, horns, bushy eye brows, sharp teeth, fire were thrown out. We all unanimously agreed that the dragon is scary and the color red must feature in the dragon.

We picked one style that inspired us to create our dragon. Chula wanted to combine Patachitra and Gond. The little one started with Madhubani and soon changed her mind. I was deeply attracted to Gond the minute I set my eyes on one. So I stayed with Gond till the end.

The hand with its fingers spread out can be a starter for many art forms. For the most part it eliminates the, “I can’t do it like you amma, can you do it for me?”. We traced our hands, leaving out the the thumb. We converted the index finger and the pinkie in to ears. The other two fingers became the horns.

It took me a good two hours to finish my dragon and I must say that it was deeply therapeutic. The little ones lost interest after the first fifteen minutes and they moved away. But they saw how much I was enjoying myself and came back to ‘help’. For the last 45 minutes they sat next to me, one holding the pens and one making sure that I did not miss the pattern. The critique from the little ones, “Well, he kind of looks friendly amma. Not scary at all. May be he is a she.” I did start out with the mental picture of the Yali, but the end result was very different.

I know that the books touched the girls because when I stepped out I saw that they had created out of side walk chalk a Warli inspired cow :)

With that I leave you with some pictures.

Dragon inspired by Beasts of India

Dragon inspired by Beasts of India

The Three Dragons

The Three Dragons

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