Thursday, September 14, 2017

An Artist's Reflection

When I worked in Corporate America, "emotions" were not something a woman (or even a man) took the work with her.  Emotions had to kept in check, below the surface.  Assuming personal hardships were shared with a colleague - there would be empathy, sometimes advice - but always an opportunity to vent and share one's troubles.  Still, there was work to do.  And one could not release these emotions in the daily duties of a corporate office.

Emotional "surfacing" or releasing of emotions is in the essence of who an artist is.  So many artists take to their canvasses when feeling sadness, frustration and happiness.  As brushes are applied to the surface, an artist has the freedom to release emotions.  It can be evident in the hardness of a stroke, the use of dark or light, vivid or muted colors and/or the subject matter itself.

There has been a lot going on in the world lately.  And depending where in the world you live - more versus less has impacts you and none of it is under your control.

This past 10 days, the Southern part of the US experienced two Category 4/5 Hurricanes, Harvey and Irma.  During the past 2 months, the rhetoric between the US and North Korean governments has been incendiary - to say the least.  While the UN and allies of both countries attempt to control and calm; it is little comfort for those of us who are at the mercy of world leaders.

Emotionally, it brings a lot to the surface.  Helplessness, anger, sadness, frustration.  When the catastrophe is a Hurricane - life stops for the people in its path.  Evacuations, stocking up on food and gas, suspension of work and school help people prepare for survival.  Priorities become clear when one thinks about which of their possessions to save.  There is a "plan" (more or less) that can be worked out to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster.  The very fact that there is a "plan" is an action acknowledging hope. Hope that governments will help people, businesses will help people and people will help people.

When the nature of disruption is political, between nations and on a scale that impacts global security of the planet, how does one escape? Daily life must go on, right? We can't stand still in shock.  We must continue to go to work, send our children to school, groceries need to be bought and food needs to be put on the table. This is how we hope.  The action of "continuance" with one's daily life is a signal in and of itself that we continue to hope for the best and have faith that world leaders will not allow another nuclear disaster to occur.

There, I said it.  NUCLEAR.  I am acknowledging it.

Businessmen go back to the office, students go back to school, Artists go back to the studio.  And I am continuing to paint; to plan for two upcoming shows and continuing to evolve.  It's been a "stormy" time.  Planning for two shows brings excitement and inspiration; but also brings anxiety and the need for daily self-affirmation.

My show in October is called The Fuji Collection.  It's a theme I plan to continue paint as I evolve through various mediums.  You can see some of them on the website Artsy.  It's an online site of galleries offering their artists' pieces.

Many times as I paint and finish working on a piece, I use the left-over paint on another canvas and let my mood and emotions direct how and where I place the brush on the canvas.  Sometimes the artwork doesn't amount to anything.  Sometimes it does.  This particular time, I am thinking a more extensive theme can be developed.  Stormy.  So far - here are what the paintings look like!  I would love to hear your thoughts.


In progress
This is oil on an F4 size wooden panel

In progress
Oil on M30 size canvas























Until my next blog!
Peace. ART. Soul

Rajul 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Painters Playing with Photography

Before I became a painter - my first love was photography.  I was 15 and visiting relatives in India one summer and I had two cousins who were photography hobbyists.  Back then photographers used film and one had to wait for prints to come back before you were able to see if your experiments worked.  (Clearly, I am old enough to have used a film camera when I was a teenager)

Spending the summer at my grandmother's house in India meant a lot of free time for me in the afternoons.  When my cousins were in school, I would either rent VHS movies or books.  I read a LOT!  My cousin leant me his copy of The Joy of Photography.  I read the book cover-to-cover.  I specifically remember the diagram where the illustrations described the inner-workings of the camera.  From when the light brought the image to the lens, bounced off the mirrors and onto the film for imprinting.

Today, we have digital. Instantaneous ability to see how the photo seems to have turned out on a small screen; more importantly, the ability to erase instantaneously and re-take the photo if we don't like it!  Some say that digital photography has removed the "art" of the backroom development of negatives into film.  I guess one could debate that.  Still; I know a few photographers who really do make art out of their photographs in the post-processing phase (after the photo is taken and loaded into a digital software program like Photoshop® or Lightroom®).

Oil Painting was always on my bucket list of things to learn someday.  And so, when I moved to Tokyo in 2012, I decided to take a break from my 20-year career in healthcare and delve into studies regarding oil, drawing, and photography.  The more I painted, the more I loved it.  And slowly I have come to focus on the art of painting - whether it be with the use of Oil, Acrylic or Japanese Watercolor.

Still, I do like to pick up my camera and have some fun.  Since I usually find subject matter from photographs I have taken along my travels; I use my these times to really play around with my camera.

Earlier this year, we went to Hawaii.  And with the use of a tripod I played around with the aperture (shutter speed), F-stop and ISO to catch some "waves" in the ocean.  I love when photographers make water look like flowing silk.  And I wanted to see if I could capture that in the ocean.

On a previous trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, I managed to get some shots of a waterfall in the Botanical Gardens in Hilo.


Each of these photos will look a little grainy if you view them up close - but I was happy to get the water looking like that!

And so I tried again this past Spring when we were at the beach!

ISO 100, f/22, 1/6 seconds

ISO 100, f/22, 1/6 seconds
Notice the heart in the splash of the wave on the rock? I didn't
see that until I processed the photo - what a happy accident!













I also try to experiment with the camera settings in Low Light situations...  Not always easy.

Aboard the Cruise Boat - Liking the lead in lines
of the fence, lights and the poles

Vancouver Harbor at Dusk






























Other times I like to try silhouettes:

My husband's profile
ISO 100, f/10. 1/200 seconds

Still, I am not a perfect photographer and there are plenty of situations where I simply resort to AUTO or use the Creative Settings on the camera to cheat (such as the sports setting) because - well...  there is no other way to capture photos like these!

Bald Eagle catching prey in Alaska

Bald Eagle - midflight
As a painter, many of my photographs serve as inspirations for compositions.  I have posted these on previous posts.  Here are a couple photographs that became paintings.

My son taking in the sights at Waikiki Beach

The Boy
Oil on Canvas




Langkawi Beach at Sunset

Painted in Pastel
Well, I am getting ready for a couple upcoming exhibitions for the Fall of 2017 and Winter 2018. I have had a busy Spring and will have a busy Summer.  I hope to blog regarding this process as I work through it!  Until then!


Peace. ART. Soul.
Rajul

www.rshah-studio.com



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Finally - My "Style"

Every successful artist has a "style".  An identity that is communicated through the stroke of the brush, or the way they process their photos.  Ansel Adams was known for his black/white images of Yosemite National Park.  Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh are known as masters of Impressionism.  Even within that you can easily tell the difference between a Monet and a Van Gogh painting; As Van Gogh is known for his use of more distinctive broken color.

In the business world, we call this "Branding".  Each company will have a logo and each product will have a "Brand".  Nike has the "Swoosh".  Apple has an apple with a bite taken out of it.  Fashion Houses like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Fendi all have distinctive logos that are used on their products and are easily recognizable to their target customers.  Branding is usually implemented on a global scale so there is a consistent impression and perception of the company and its products from one country to another.

In the Art world, each artist's "branding" is his/her unique way of representing their subject matter.  In an earlier blog, I wrote about artists copying other artists but employing each individual's style. Artists Inspiring Artists  You will see how Liechtenstien copied Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles.  A sculpture by Tobias Stengel is inspired from a wood block print by Katsukisha Hokusai.  This is very common.  Even Picasso once said "Good artists copy, great artists steal".

The point is - a good artist can give you an almost exact reproduction of Van Gogh's Starry Night; or Monet's Lillies.  A great artists will re-interpret Van Gogh's Starry Night in his/her own way; thus giving the "starry night" a new life, a new vision and maybe appeal to a new audience.  This is one way in which the "Masters" continue to inspire generations of artists.

In trying to figure out my "style"; I experimented across materials, including textiles.  I referred to and made a list of what I love when I view paintings or work from my favorite artists.  I also thought about those things that give me a sense of joy when I look at them - and why.  I don't think it would be unusual for my style to evolve in some way - however; I feel I have arrived at the crux of my inspirations.

Monet, Nancy Reyner (an artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico Nancy Reyner), the Japanese art of Sumi-E The Art of the Japanese Brush, my Indian heritage and its translation to textile Indian Icons - these are my inspirations.  The combination of which has led me to where I am today in my Artist Statement:


Combining passion for travel and adventure with Art; I seek to create expressionistic landscape compositions that capture the spirit of a place, a time, a memory, or an experience.

My goal is to create paintings that impart emotions unique to each person’s soul; whether it is excitement, desire, inspiration, peace or a sense of adventure.  I integrate earthen materials such as gold, silver, and copper across traditional and contemporary mediums, materials, textures and techniques that blend seamlessly together.

Although we collectively represent a human race, each of us brings our own unique set of experiences as individuals.  Therefore, the collector is always at the center of my paintings not as an observer, but as a participant.

And here is the first result - 

Variegated/Silver Leaf and Acrylic on Canvas
91cm x 117cm
I hope you will stay tuned for more!



(With) Peace...  (In) ART...  (To the) Soul.
Rajul

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Spirit Book...

I remember Oprah Winfrey (a famous US celebrity, journalist and TV Talk Show personality) doing a segment on her show OPRAH called "Remembering Your Spirit". It was always an inspirational end to her shows with an enlightening reminder to take the time and remember to love oneself and feed one's soul.  This is true for everyone.  In my second career as an artist, I find myself doing a lot of this - for me to really be creative and find my "Joy Spark" in my Art, I need to continually explore what inspires me and what feeds my spirit.

A Spiritual Art Journal

I found this beautiful book when I was in the US last Summer.  I was taking my older son to tour Colleges and we were visiting my alma matter in Philadelphia.  I received my undergraduate degree from Drexel University....  a long time ago. (And we will leave it at that!).

Anyway, lots has changed since I went to college in Philadelphia.  University City (where both the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University are located) has gone through a complete makeover with several new shops and updated stores.  One of them is an Art Supply Store call Plaza Art Materials on Walnut St.  I found a book filled with beautifully textured handmade paper.  It had no idea what I was going to do with it - but it just called out to me.

The Book measures 9" x 12" 

Beautiful texture up close

The paper is handmade


After coming back to Tokyo, I realized I could make a Spiritual Art Journal.  Using photographs I had taken upon my travels in Asia and elsewhere, I have begun to create paintings as part of my Japanese Painting classes.  Each of these paintings is accompanied by an inspirational quote that speaks to me. So far, I have completed 5 paintings.

The first one was more of an experiment - just to see how the paper absorbed the Japanese ink and how the Japanese brush glided onto the paper.

Bamboo is the first stroke we learn
in Japanese Brush Painting

It felt so smooth to paint on this paper! I started going through my travel photographs and collect the ones I wanted to paint.  So, I began...

Kyoto, Japan

I did an art holiday in Kyoto in November 2015.  It was a wonderful getaway with a bunch of other artists who also observe the world around them with color and depth and fascination with lines and painting. We took a tour of the Arashiyama River.  I like to preserve scenes that inspire me to paint with my camera, so I can take them into my studio later and re-create.

Arashiyama River, Kyoto Japan
"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you
might hear the voice of God"  -Maya Angelou


The Golden Pavilion or Kin-Kakuji Temple is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kyoto, Japan.  They say at sunset, there is the "golden moment" - as the Sun sets it casts a gentle orange light onto the temple.

The Golden Pavilion, Kyoto Japan

"Once a year, go someplace you've never been"
- Dalai Lama


Sapa, Vietnam

One of our family's favorite vacations (although it was hectic) was Vietnam.  We took an overnight sleeper train from HaNoi to Sapa.  It as an old rickety train which must have stopped at 10 different places overnight.  We didn't get any sleep - but once we got to the Northern Vietnam Tonkin Alps countryside - we were in Love. It was one of the most peaceful and lush places I have ever been.

Rice Terraces in Sapa, Vietnam

"Travel makes one modest.  You see what a tiny place you
occupy in the world."  -Gustave Flauber

















Niseko, Japan

Our family greatly enjoys skiing/snowboarding.  Last two years, we have been fortunate to go to Niseko in Northern Japan on the island of Hokkaido.  The moisture from the Sea of Japan and the Siberian wind combine to create one of the best and snowy places in the world.  It is an outdoor wonderland.  My husband and I love to ski, while our children love to snowboard.



Green Trails on Hanazono Mountain, Hirafu Japan

"Not all those who wander are lost."  -J.R.R. Tokien
(Yes, I took a bit of liberty on this one to add the mountain in the background)

As I go through the pages of this journal, I realize that I am also "practicing".  I plan to create larger versions of these works for an upcoming exhibition in the next one year.  What better way to celebrate the Artistic Adventures we have been blessed with, than to share them.  

Inspiration comes from many places; and the source is different for everyone.  Being blessed with the opportunity to live in Asia - my family enjoys traveling and experiencing new places.  When I photograph the landscapes, I always find myself in awe of how large the world is - and how much there is to see.

Until my next blog!
Peace. ART. SouL.
Always,

Rajul

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Art of the Japanese Brush II - Kakizome 2017

According to Wikipedia: Kakizome (literally "first writing") is a Japanese term for the first calligraphy written at the beginning of a year, traditionally on January 2.

Every year my Japanese painting Senseis (teachers) host an incredible party for all their students.  It is a Kakizome Party held in January at the Tokyo American Club in Tokyo.  You can see the works of both beginning and advanced students on display with beautiful articulations of the "Japanese Brush".

The Kakizome Party held at the Tokyo American Club is sponsored by the Ohta Senseis every Year.

Whenever I look back at my Japanese classes. I have come to realize - that slowly, my Senseis have changed the way they teach me.  Over the last 3 years, they have slowly allowed me to depict compositions from my photographs - which are mostly landscapes from my various adventures in Japan and Asia.  The Kakizome party is unique because my Senseis teach many students who are expatriates in Tokyo and/or from outside Japan.  Thus; the subject matter we choose to paint may be Japanese in tradition - but with an "untraditional" Japanese composition.  

For example. there is one artist who does not like the color Gold - which is a very traditional color used throughout Japanese paintings.  Instead, she highlighted many pieces in various shades of Blue, Grey/Silver and Black.


The Artist found a screen at a local flea market and using
colors of grey and blue to offer renditions of ocean waves
The same artist shows a rendition of Mt. Fuji
in non-traditional colors of grey and blue.









































Last year I blogged about this party and the Art of Japanese Brush  The Art of the Japanese Brush... and talked about the various tools of Nihonga and Sumi-E Painting.  

Allow me to speak of why I find this painting medium to be so beautiful. A lot of it - for me - has to do with the pigment used when painting in color.

Traditionally, Nihonga involves painting on Washi (Japanese paper) or silk.  The paintings can either be in monochromatic or polychromatic.  Customarily monochromatic paintings are in black/grey/white and these are called sumi-e paintings.  Sumi is referred to as a Chinese ink made with soot.  Originally, this brush painting technique emigrated from China into Korea and Japan.

Polychromatic Nihonga involves various pigments which are traditionally made from natural ingredients, such as shells, corals, minerals, and semi-precious stones like malachite, azurite and cinnabar.  They are grinded or blended into powders with some sort of hide glue solution to be used as a binder.  Water is also used and hence; Nihonga is a water-based medium like traditional Watercolor.  Still; Nihonga paintings offers vivid palettes and when mixed together - colors can be bright or muted, opaque or transparent.

I asked my Sensei regarding the source of various colors.  While now, synthetic materials may also be added to meet the demand for paints...  here is a listing of the natural ingredient that is still used as a base.

White = Gofun (Japanese name) from Shell (Clam, Oyster, Scallop)
Red = Enji from Safflower or Cochineal insect
Yellow = Yamabuki from Phellodendron amurense and/or Gardenia
Ocher = Oudo from Turmeric and/or Sulfur
Orange = Shu from Turmeric and/or Vermilion
Brown from Iron Oxide
Turquoise = Byakuroku, Light Green (Rokusho) and Dark Green (Aokusa) are both from Malachite (Rust of Bronze)
Blue = Gunjo from Azurite and/or Blue Malachite
Navy = Ai from Indigo Plant
Purple = Murasaki from Amethyst

Initially, practical applications for nihonga were for sliding doors (fusuma) or folding screens (byobu) - highlighting the cultural aspect of Japanese culture for surroundings to be especially aesthetically pleasing. Paintings are also done on hanging scrolls and hand scrolls.  

As part of the Kakizome Party, there was an artist who painted on both sides of doors that would be used in someone's home.

One side of door painted in Black/White Bamboo
Other side of Door depicts a forest scene with the moon.

As an artist, I love to experiment.  I have experimented using Nihonga on untraditional substrates (surfaces), including Watercolor paper and Acrylic grounds, such as fiber paste.  Any substrate or surface that can take on a water-based medium should - in theory - be able to take on Nihonga painting.  And so, here are my "experiments" as shown in the Kakizome party.

The Cherry Blossoms are done on a panel where a foundation of Acrylic fiber paste was laid down to provide a textural background.  The bottom painting is on 300gsm watercolor paper.  Both paintings are inspired by photographs I have taken during Cherry Blossom season and my travels in Kyoto, Japan.


My other contributions to the Kakizome Party used more traditional surfaces.

This is a painting of Mt. Fuji on a traditional Japanese screen on imitation gold leaf
, measuring 172cm wide and 97cm high

The "Four Seasons" are painted on traditional Washi paper and
Applied to panels that are traditionally used as part
of the Japanese tea ceremony (I found these panels at a local flea market).
All 4 panels measure 57cm high and 20cm high.
And still - I will leave you with some of my favorite pieces from other artists...

I loved the detail on this piece - the spirit of the horses suggest grace and power.

Beautifully decorated Bamboo boxes lend a pleasing accent

This blue and fiery orange colors of the Pheonix stand out against the backdrop of Gold.

One of the classes was charged with painting new ceiling tiles for a local temple being restored.

A beautiful temple will have the paintings from these students in its ceiling for posterity.


Until my next blog!
Peace. Art. SouL.

Rajul

www.rshah-studio.com

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hope Springs Eternal! Artistic Resolutions for 2017

Hope Springs Eternal! Artistic Resolutions - 2017




Last year – 2016 – I hadn’t formulated my New Year’s Resolutions until mid-February.  I was successful on 1.5 out of 3 of them.  That I can remember – because I hadn’t written them down last year.

This year, although I am still late to the game, I am earlier than last year! And I am writing them down – as someone once said, if you declare you are going to do something; you are more likely to achieve it.  So here goes!

In 2016, my professional goals were to publish a blog post once per week, start to learn the use of Acrylics as a medium, work on my Drawing skills and have an exhibition.  Well, publishing something once per week was not realistic.  Consistently, I think I published once per month.

However; I did achieve my second goal and had an exhibition in November. http://designfestagallery-diary.blogspot.jp/2016/10/ashok-mody-rajul-shah-indian-icons.html

It was a lot of fun and I continue to be grateful for the support of my friends, family and community.

In addition to declaring my “professional” goals for 2017; I am going to throw in a few personal ones.  Here is my list.

1.     Publish a blog post twice per month

2.     Develop my next series of Paintings for a future show/exhibition to be held in late 2017/ early '18 (‘cause it just takes that much time!)

3.    Drawing! Drawing! Drawing! As in all professions, there are always opportunities for development in one or more aspects of the work - and I need to work on drawing. 

4.     Get healthy again – Lose that weight, and get strong.  Get back to a consistent workout schedule of 3 to 4, even 5 times per week.  – I am finding that my best ideas come to me when I make the time to work out, taking care of my physical self, the release of endorphins stimulates my brain to think more creatively.
 
5.     Family Time.  More of it – not so much running around.

6.     Make time for “local” art holidays.  Explore some new areas within Tokyo, take photos – sketch, paint what I see. 

7.     Get better at scheduling time with Close Friends – deepen relationships.

8.     In the spirit of the Dalai Lama – visit one place I have never been.

When I reflect back on 2016; I know I did a lot.  Balancing work, family and community is a challenge for everyone.  Keeping in balance is something I am always working on – and then realizing that I need to back out of some things so I can balance better.

Starting off 2017 with a lot of positive energy as I am almost complete with one commission and have picked up 3 new ones!

So, here’s to another year of Creativity, Inspiration and Artistic Adventures.  Wishing us all peaceful moments…

Until my next blog!

Peace. ART. Soul.

Rajul