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Part 1 of many.

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I have always wanted to be an artist.

I most definitely have the passion and the patience for it. But the environment I grew up in was different. I was expected to read my academic books and when I got bored, I had a choice of minding my own business without bothering the adults or browse through the college level books that were crammed in my house.

After I was born my father did his M.Phil and then his Ph.D in organic chemistry. This with a full time job as chemistry professor. The man would happily skip to college to do another degree in this ripe age of 64. For heavens sake, he did his M.Ed after he finished his Ph.D because he was going in to withdrawal. Last phone call, I became aware that he enrolled for Tamil Vedham class on Sundays because he is bored and misses learning. *Rolling eyes*

All this meant that my amma had extra responsibility at home. Oh! add two of my amma’s sisters to the equation. Yes, my two chithis were staying with us and went to school. When I was born the older chithi was 15 years old and the younger one was 13. Later the older one stayed with us and did her med school and the younger one did her engineering. Plus there were the usual obligations for my amma from both her mother’s side and in-laws side. So this translated to more expenses, lesser money, even more work for amma. So unless I was drawing something on my record notebook or for my school assignments, it was highly frowned upon.

But I wouldn’t exactly call it an environment devoid of art. My amma was an expert in kolam, embroidery, basket weaving, stitching and an occasional pencil sketching. When I say kolam it is not the small and simple apartment kolams. I am talking the 4 to 5 feet diameter free hand kolams, with symmetry. May be it was because my amma has been doing all this since she was six or seven, it had already become a daily chore and may be she just wanted to get it over with and move on to the next in her agenda. Or may be because my amma being the oldest daughter, she had been the ‘teacher’ for her four siblings. Though I was her first biological child, I was her last baby, so may be she thought she had time. Plus amma comes from the belief, ‘Kan parthu kai seiyanum’ which translates to you must look at how it is done and start doing it. Both my chithis studied ALL the time, but when they did an occasional art like painting a piece of pottery or drew something, they were awesome. Perfect work, absolute symmetry, great perspective…all this without any kind of practice.

So I must say that I kind of wanted to do art. Though I had owned only a couple of sets of sketch pens, one set of water colors and a few color pencils all through my childhood, I did it in a small way I could. The pictures in my record note books were outsanding. Then there was this phase in college where I was head over heels in to making my own greeting cards. But they were mostly cutesy stuff. So I wanted some one to hold my hands to do serious art.

I took art lessons when I was 23. My first formal exposure being water colors. At the time I took the class, I don’t think it went well at all. I found it so very hard to control the medium. I could follow the demo to some extent, but observational drawing/painting and drawing from memory were Greek and Latin. Perspective left me perplexed. Then there was capturing how the light falls, depth, color mixing, technique, layering, form and movement. I would recreate at home some of the techniques such as masking, texturing, sponging but from my experiments I found I had three limitations.
-I couldn’t bring out the depth.
-I was too careful with the paint. Every time I squeezed out paint, I found something holding me back. “Got to be careful, do not waste” mantra kept ringing again and again in my head. “What is wrong with not wasting?” one might ask, I will come back to it later.
-I was always copying. I would like a painting or a photograph and would want to recreate it.

Around this time, I saw Bob Ross on TV and I was dumbfounded. He made it look like a piece of cake and I believed that acrylics were my destiny. Unfortunately it was a very short-lived experience. I needed step-by-step guiding and the teachers I had were amazing artists but poor teachers. What seemed basic to them was a giant step for me and the gap couldn’t be bridged at all. So I stopped acrylics in 12 weeks.

Oh I must mention the one stroke painting phase! Inspired by Donna Dewberry, I painted everything in the house. Flower pots, plates, lazy susan, wood storage boxes, serving trays…. 😀

Next in line was oils and I must say that I loved it. Th teacher was amazing. All along I had worked on a white canvas, layering it with dark colors. But this time the teacher started me off with a black canvas and helped me bring out the light with every step. The fact that I could finish a portrait was a big deal for me. I was able to come up with a finished product that had depth, but I still had the other two limitations.  This was around the time I was having my miscarriages and some old wife tale about heavy metals in oils and smelling turpentine fumes put a complete stop to any further development.

For a long time I had had my eyes on tanjore paintings. So I took a workshop and loved it. Again I must say that I had a wonderful teacher. I have made four tanjore paintings so far. One of which is hanging in my house and the other three are gifts. Lovely hobby, but expensive, both in terms of time and material.

Given my limitations and time restrictions I think my art experiments will be postponed for another 10 or so years. I am not giving up, because I enjoy the process of creating something even if it is a copy, but because I simply do not have the bandwidth for classes and practice. So I was clearing my art storage boxes in the garage, salvaging some stuff for the girls to use. All this got me thinking…..

What is art? How do I define MY art? How do I teach my children to find THEIR art?



Contd: Part 2 of many.

All posts from this series.

[tags]art, art for young children, art for adults, my experiments with art[/tags]

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