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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

at work in the studio


The fall is giving way to winter here in Maryland. On days like today, the sky is grey, the rain drizzles and the cold turns the water drops on branches into ice. On other days, the sun shines but it gives more light than warmth. The leaves are still dropping off trees. Sometimes they leave the tree gently. There is a decisive moment when the leaf lets go (or is it the tree that lets go?). Sometimes a gush of wind makes the separation a forceful one, sending leaves off trees with a whoosh. It's lovely to see the seasons change. And from my studio window it looks even more lovely. I always thought that the rain was best enjoyed in the comfort of your home with a cup of coffee in your hands. The winter in Maryland takes this idea to quite another level. I love winters and the prospect of walking around with layers of sweaters and jackets. But the joy of sitting indoors and looking out at a wintry world is unparalleled.

Other than enjoying the winter, I've been spending a lot of time in the studio the last couple of months. For the most part, I've been working on a new body of work - a new set of paintings and drawings. I am enjoying doing the work immensely. The great thing about doing abstract work is that you are always surprised. The way I've been working is such that I don't have a plan (see this post about working without a plan). So I work - looking, adding, subtracting, searching and changing - until I come to the point where the composition comes together. Arriving at this point is such a thrill because you don't really plan on getting to that exact place. You can't plan how certain marks, splashes, drips etc will interact with each other. You always stop in your tracks, and for me that seems like the best way to work.

I've also been reading in the studio. These days it's the work of John Cage that I've been reading about. First I read 'Where the Heart Beats - John Cage, Zen Buddhism and the Inner Life of Artists' by Kay Larson. Now I am reading 'Musicage: Cage Muses on Words, Art, Music', which is a series of conversations between John Cage and Joan Retallack. Both books are very interesting and thought provoking. Sometimes I read fiction, but I usually keep fiction for the evening.

Writing is another thing I do when in the studio. Sometimes I write before I start painting. It allows me to quieten down. Writing also helps to gain clarity. Sometimes putting things down on paper is all it takes to really see something. But usually I write because I have a thought and I want to explore it. And when I write I use a pen and a diary. I'm not a typer-writer really.

The painting, reading and writing, all happen in the studio. Here they all come together, one flows into the other. Sometimes when there is a lull in drawing or painting, I look to writing or reading to refresh me. But you know, sometimes just sitting doing nothing is good too. At that time it's the studio itself that provides inspiration. The easel, paints, brushes, inks and pencils present a scene full of possibilities. I have on the walls a few of my works, a linocut and a monoprint. On the table and windowsill I have my collection of leaves and stones and such. And of course there is always the window to look out from.

I'll end here with some photographs I took this morning in the studio. Enjoy!






Sunday, July 21, 2013

monk meditates

I write this post from Columbia, Maryland where Sandeep and I have relocated. After the desert of Arizona, we are now experiencing a different landscape. Here we see green grass everywhere and tall lush trees. Butterflies, fireflies and the occasional deer grazing. Very beautiful.

Now for the real subject of this post. Before we left for Columbia I was working on a couple of things at The Drawing Studio print lab. One was a project that Sandeep commissioned. He wanted a print made of Thelonious Monk. 'Round Midnight? Straight, No Chaser?

I thought it over and decided that using the solar plate technique would be the best approach. The first stage was sketching. I found a photograph of Monk, sketched it, adding piano keys and accentuated smoke. Once the sketch was ready, I had to transfer the sketch to a solar plate. This was accomplished by transferring the drawing on to a transparency using a copying machine. The transparency was then placed on a solar plate, and together they went into a light box. The solarplate was exposed to UV light and in a short while the plate was then ready for inking. For this piece I used an oil based ink, India red with black. I then used a traditional press to create the print. I was very happy with the outcome and so was Sandeep.

monk meditates, A/P solar plate, 8x10", ©2013 priya vadhyar
Here are images of the sketch and the solar plate post UV exposure.


monk, the sketch

solar plate, post UV exposur

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

impressions - printmaking exhibit at TDS

I have been learning printmaking at The Drawing Studio for a few months now. Printmaking is something I've wanted to learn for a long long time, but I didn't have access to a print lab till recently. Now that I had access, I signed up real quick. In the non-toxic intaglio class taught by Jennifer Clarke and Thomas Lindell (and a couple of sessions by Rebecca Bushner) I tried my hand at hard ground and soft ground etching, solarplate, image-on and cyanotype. In the intaglio open lab, I have been learning from Jennifer Clarke the art of making a mezzotint (a more detailed post on mezzotints coming up soon). And in a lino-cut work group I have been learning to make linoleum prints with Lynn Fleischman. 

It's been fascinating to learn processes so different from painting. Printmaking requires a different way of thinking - in terms of stages and processes, in negative and positive. The processes require one to be methodical and disciplined. The tools are many and different; the ferric chloride for etching, the copper plates, the UV light boxes, the 'rocker', the brayers, the 'blankets', the inks, the floor wax, the soy sauce (I'm not kidding) and the press with it's big wheel and heavy roller are just some of the things that make up a print lab. But more importantly, what makes a printlab is the community of printmakers. There is a wonderful energy in the lab, all the printmakers doing their thing and solving printmaking problems together. I've had a great time learning from them all, seeing the work they do. I will post more about the print lab soon - there's just so much to say! In the meantime, here are are two prints - both in a printmaking exhibition at The Drawing Studio that opens May 4th (6-8pm). The first print titled 'First Light' is a mezzotint. The second called  'Desert Song' was made with a solarplate. The show aims to educate the public about printmaking and will also include demonstrations. The exhibition features fantastic works by very talented artists, and includes a wide array of printmaking techniques. Here is the link to more information about the exhibition.

first light, A/P mezzotint, 5x6" ©2013 priya vadhyar

desert song, A/P solarplate, 4x5" ©2013 priya vadhyar

Monday, March 11, 2013

inner city in juried show

My painting Inner City has been accepted for a juried show titled 'Sanctuary through Partnership: A Collaboration Featuring Flight', which has been organised in association with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the Tucson Jewish Community Center, the Tucson Museum of Art and The Drawing Studio.

As the IRC mentions on its website: The group show is the result of a year long conversation about the meaning of sanctuary for the world's most vulnerable. The theme stems from the IRC's Flight exhibit, a special portfolio of works by twelve 20th century masters like Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró and Robert Motherwell, representing their interpretation of the struggle of those who flee from their homes in search of freedom. The collection was organised by Varian Fry, an IRC representative in France during World War II, who rescued over 2000 writers, artists, intellectuals and other refugees who were being targeted by the Nazis.*

The exhibition will be held at the Tucson Jewish Community Center Fine Art Gallery, starting March 15th until April 16th, and will be placed alongside the Flight exhibit. The opening is on March 17th. Also part of the schedule is a panel discussion with artists and Jeffrey Cornish, Executive Director of the IRC on March 24th.

inner city, acrylic on canvas, 30x40" ©2013 priya vadhyar
*source: The International Rescue Committee

Saturday, February 16, 2013

abstraction and the virtue of letting go


inner city, acrylics on canvas, 30x40" ©2013 priya vadhyar
For the last few months I have been taking classes at The Drawing Studio. The one that began late in October was called Xtreme Painting: Looking for Dragon Smoke, an abstracts-in-acrylics class taught by Josh Goldberg. Taught against the backdrop of Eastern philosophy, Xtreme Painting looks at the act of painting and the expression of a non-representational language.

On the first day of class, Josh asked us to stand in front of our fresh canvases without a plan and empty of thought. As we began, he asked us to be spontaneous, and let go of the idea of control. Over the weeks, we were encouraged to be unattached and non-judgmental. We were to look at the marks objectively and act according to what the painting required. Looking critically at the composition, the colour and the direction of brush strokes, while keeping the painting fresh were just some of the lessons we learned with each session. We were to be alert to accidents/ opportunities that arise, and look for clues that might suggest the next move. Over the next eight weeks, we learned to trust ourselves, see our work and let our inner abstraction find expression.

What was interesting was learning to be completely present in the act of painting without the distractions of the ego, judgement and past/future considerations. Complete involvement in any process can be a tough hill to climb if we are too eager to reach. And yet that's exactly what's required for true expression.

To learn more about this way of painting I'm now taking the second part of this class (Xtreme Painting: Riding the Dragon). Inner City is one of the paintings I've completed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

home from the gala exhibition - david andrés etching

The Drawing Studio (TDS) gala on Friday night was such fun. There was music and wine and hors d'oeuvres, people mingled, sat around the many tables in the studios, looked at the gala exhibition and made their lists. And then when numbers were being called out, people waited eagerly and then hurriedly (but politely) made their way hoping to get the artwork that spoke to them the most. By the end of the evening, everywhere were happy faces, holding the artwork they chose.

And I was one of them. The Drawing Studio generously gave me a ticket to the event (as a volunteer) and therefore the opportunity to take home an artwork. When my number was called, I went to the piece that I wanted the most - a print by David Andrés. The artwork is a solar polymer etching of a star fish titled 'Estrella Maris - Bahia San Pedro Mexico'. And here is the image of this beautiful piece full of texture and mystery - the star of the sea.

estrella maris - bahia san pedro mexico, solar polymer etching, 8x10", 2008 david andrés

(detail) estrella maris - bahia san pedro mexico, solar polymer etching, 8x10", 2008 david andrés
My artworks in the gala (see earlier post) found happy homes too. 'In the Moonlight' was selected by TDS faculty Sherry Bryant and 'On a Grey Note' was the choice of Lori Ryder, who is an artist and also the Director of Volunteers and Membership at TDS. I am glad that these two lovely ladies have my work. Thank you Sherry and Lori!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

exhibition - the drawing studio gala 2013

2013 is off to a wonderful start. I'm exhibiting my work at The Drawing Studio, as part of their annual fundraiser gala titled 'The Paper Ball'. The theme of the exhibition is works on or of paper, and is a collection of 200 artworks each donated by artists mostly from the Tucson area. By selling 200 tickets to the event, The Drawing Studio will raise funds that will go towards its educational programs for the youth and the elderly and also adult scholarships.

Each ticket holder will receive a number and during the course of the evening, numbers will be drawn  randomly. When one's number is called, the ticket holder can choose one of the artworks exhibited for themselves. So each ticket holder will leave with an artwork at the end of the evening. Great concept, isn't it?

And I am one of the artists contributing to the gala. I have two paintings in the show - one is an ink painting on watercolour paper, and the second is a watersoluble graphite 'painting' on watercolour paper. For both paintings I have used molding paste on the paper to create a layer of textures and peaks.

My paintings and the rest of the exhibition is on display now and the gala event is on Friday 25th January. The event will include a silent auction of artworks by renowned Tucson artists that will also raise funds for The Drawing Studio's educational programs.

If you are interested in attending the event at The Drawing Studio, you will find information here on their website.

'in the moonlight', ink on watercolour paper, 15x21" ©2012 priya vadhyar
'on a grey note', water-soluble graphite on watercolour paper, 16x20" ©2012 priya vadhyar 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

inspiration in the studio

When I am in my studio, I often look up at my wall for inspiration. Stuck on it are cuttings, pictures, small drawings, reminders and beautiful objects which revive me, push me to do more and often give me sound advice. Advice comes from some of the people who have inspired me immensely - Georgia O'Keeffe, Virginia Woolf, John Muir, Maya Angelou, Henry David Thoreau, Vincent Van Gogh.


When I am frustrated with a painting, Georgia O'Keeffe says,
"Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing." 

To be true to myself, Virginia Woolf says, "This soul, or life within us, by no means agrees with the life outside us. If one has the courage to ask her what she thinks, she is always saying the very opposite to what other people say."

That art is not separate from the rest of life, is what John Muir says, 
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."

Courage comes to me from Maya Angelou who says,
"Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently."

Henry David Thoreau reminds me to persevere,
"Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still."

And finally, Vincent Van Gogh sternly tells me to have faith, 
"Painting is a faith, and it imposes the duty to disregard public opinion."

Who inspires you?