Art Experiments

Sticks and Stones

Sometimes as an artist I just have an itch. I can’t seem to explain what I’m trying to make or why or how it’s connected to my other work but I just need to get it out of my system. I read about different artists who pick up a piece of nature from every place they travel to and I wish I was that precise in my collection of things and items- my process in the everyday seems so arbitrary- though I guess there might be some method to my madness.

I picked up these beautiful layered stones in Australia from Byron Bay and lugged them to India and then back to Chicago- so they are well loved, well traveled and coddled several times by TSA. I glazed them up, glue gunned some beads to them and then just strung them up with invisible string on a collection of sticks to appear like they’re floating.

Husband thinks they look like something from True Detective. It made me think of the poem #sticksandstones when I was working on them. Kid just thinks they are very cool.

Street Still Life

I went for the Steve McCurry exhibit at the Taidehalle when I was in Helsinki. Besides fantastic compositions and capturing the soul of his subject- there was a short film on his using the last roll of Kodachrome film to capture images that meant something to him. To fulfill this quest, he decided to go to India, his chosen destination for vibrance of color, subject matter and diversity. Of course, the images both enthralled me and made me a bit nostalgic and homesick.

We’re so entrenched in the digital camera age, that its easy to take multiple shots and delete/ edit/ instragram/ share.  As I walked from the Taidehalle to the Museo Design in Helsinki, I challenged myself to take predetermined shots, with as much control as possible.  I’m always searching for compositions- in my head, in my surroundings. A simple setting, vibrant, with shapes, color and an intriguing subject matter was what I was looking for. An object in a setting that I could weave a story around.

So, if you had 36 shots left, what would you click?


No Entry

No Entry







Drawing is the most effective tool for an artist and the most often ignored as well. I know this is the most important skill that I will need to consistently develop, no matter what kind of art I make.’Why sketch?’. There are several abstract painters I know who only apply paint on canvas. After all paint is so delicious and gooey and delightful to work with. And other artists who seek inspiration in their surroundings, through fields of color and use sketching to inspire their painting. Sketching need not necessarily be to realistically depict that what is around you, but to interpret through drawings and movement of your arm- what your eyes see.

The analogy I love is that sketching is like building a scaffolding. It is the structure and support that is needed to begin working. It is what connects our brain and eye to our hand and produces a base to make art.

Here are some sketches that started at the location and were completed with the help of photographs as my subjects are always in motion. I used newsprint paper and any tool that I had at hand to draw with.


Experimenting once a week

As the weeks pass by, I have presented my projects and ideas at the center program I keep hearing similar suggestions.  Annie Morse suggested that we ‘Go outside your comfort zone/s. Use unfamiliar media; draw, sculpt, write, or move simply and freely without worrying about producing great work.’ Juan Chavez suggested ‘Your images are space driven- there is a simplicity and suggestion of movement. Can that be shown in another way? Take your concepts further to experiment with materials.’ 
I love the idea of a good challenge, but I didn’t want to upset my regular painting schedule too much. So, I decided to dedicate a few hours each Monday (M) to experimentation.

M1: Silkscreen
With the help of one of my friends, I figured out the facilities in the silkscreen studio and gave it a shot with one of my older artworks. I gave different backgrounds with watercolors and pastels to each image. This allowed me to re-create the image multiple times without it being too repetitive.

Man at work, Silkscreen on paper

M2: Sketching
I attended a life drawing class at the center. I enjoyed this so much that I later extended this to some plein air sketches as well. It was liberating to draw with my eyes.

Kachrawala, Ink on paper

M3: Photography
It was a beautiful, sunny day that I didn’t feel like spending indoors. I just got a couple of new lenses for my camera and this was the perfect time to experiment with them.

Wall under the El

M4: Building a moquette

Some feedback that I received suggested I try three-dimensional forms. So I collected some odd scraps and gathered some spare Ikea furniture parts and made a ‘haath gaadi’- a hand- drawn cart used by laborers to haul stuff around in India.

Miniature Haath-gaadi, wood scraps and Ikea spare parts

Though I am still working on my primary body of work, I find these exercises- trying something new- liberating and exhilarating. My goal is to primarily get out of my comfort zone, teach myself some new skills and simply have some fun.

Storm days are for the sketchbook

Hope, watercolor on paper

The snowstorm in Chicago was one of the worst in it’s history- and kept me away from venturing to the studio. What that resulted in was- lots of cooking, hours at the gym, sketching and watercolors. I decided to keep emergency art supplies like sketchbooks, watercolors and color pencils at home for working at night. That was definitely a good call. These are the two I decided to share. They were not inspired by anything in particular, just random shapes that bloomed into color.

I decided to call it ‘Hope’ as I seemed to be thinking of spring in the worst part of winter.

Recollecting the beginning

Trio of Scrap Cities, 6″x4″ in (2 sets)

When in Mumbai, I remember the incessant steady sounds of construction- it seemed omnipresent. The roof of the building was being re-done at home, the lobby outside my ground floor studio, re-painting of the building walls- the workmen and scaffoldings all around. Sometimes at my home in Chicago, when it gets very quiet and cold, I almost miss that constant hammering.

Whilst adopting the principle that inspiration is best found in ones surroundings, I started putting on paper my little ideas and worked on collages. I enjoy the mundane activities of collecting, cutting, pasting. The joy of mindless repetition through instinct is hard to explain. The resultant work is simple but gives me a starting reference point for more ideas.

As I found pictures of them in my archives today, it made me remember the beginning. And many other beginnings and endings.

Acrylic play on board

I used some cheap 11″x14″ canvas boards for these trials. The media was mainly acrylic gels and paints. The accessories used were string, combs, toothbrushes. The technique was just a lot of pulling, pushing paint around, scraping it and layering it. It was not only fun, I think I found some interesting things to work with in future paintings.

Acrylic on Board

Little experiment: Inks blooming in water

The world was born on a tuesday, but it looked like another time, a no time, an outside time, an every time, a time for falling and rising up, for uprisings and downpourings, too, a time for being born and imploding, a time for some things to go out and others to go in. Time was born on a tuesday but, it looked like tomorrow. – Sarah Blakley-Cartwright, Oregon

I bought some colors of these shiny inks, picked up a little tub and several sheets of 300gsm paper. Poured about 3-4 inches deep clean tap water into the tub. Using a few droplets of ink, I swirled them around to make patterns I liked. The water did the rest and helped me out. Then, I dropped the paper in it facedown. Gave it about 30 seconds and then pulled it out. To add some variations, I masked some random areas with masking fluid. After removing the fluid, I made some designs with a black ball-point pen.

I really enjoyed letting the water make the patterns for me and the mystery of what was going to appear on that sheet after I turned it over. Of course, after a couple of hours, I got a few that I liked. A fun, light, crafty project. We entered this in an ‘Urban Confustions Journal’ caption contest and the winner was Sarah Blakley-Cartwright from Oregon.

Building my own “Scaffolding”

Lego, matchsticks, thread

I am playing with my four-year-old nephew today while I am on a ‘thinking break’. I wanted to continue with my own little constructions, using borrowed blocks of Lego.

Mumbai- the seas, skies exploding with colours of the sunset. The greenery with the slums, scaffoldings, and the sullied windows- an enthralling image.  I collect my blocks, match-sticks, thread and start building… and dreaming.

I taught him what bamboos tied together with rope against a building are called, “Scaffolding, masi…” he says.

Sketching en plein air, Regents Park, London

My husband is on a three-month internship in London this summer. So, I find myself back in the city where I learnt to look at art and life differently. Though I don’t have access to art materials or studio space, I am taking the time to sketch and spend as much time as I can outdoors in this city. Since we are living so close to Regents park, I decided to go out and sketch today. It kept threatening to rain and I almost went back, but it eased off when I reached my favorite spot by the bridge. The park was almost empty when I came in and after a while people stopped by and peeked over my shoulder. Working outdoors can be both annoying and entertaining, depending on the mood.

Regents Park, London

I used a Stabilio point 88 set of 10 colors and a Pentel brush with an in-built water reservoir. The brush is great as it has a water holder which releases just enough water to dampen and spread the ink, without flooding the page. It also eliminates the need to carry water and brushes with you. A good sketching pad is of course a necessity. My preference is the Daler Rowney, A4 size with spiral binding. I like using lots of water, so I prefer 160gsm to avoid warping of the paper.

I loved this tutorial by Katherine Tyrrell on sketching outdoors. She gives a full list of things that are useful and situations that you may face. Everything from how to select a good spot and materials that you may need is covered! Very comprehensive guide.

Enjoy the summer en plein air.