Thursday, June 30, 2011

Come down a warli path!

       Welcome to the world of warli, a world in which everything is magically transformed as if into a magical land in a child's vibrant imagination, where people have two triangles for bodies and sticks for arms and legs and houses have seemingly simple thatched roofs!!
        At first glance, the simple drawings of a warli painting appear to be a child's work, but on further inspection, we realize the complex thoughts behind such a simple art form. Warli is essentially what is called a 'tribal' art form, developed over the years by the simple village folks of the state of Maharahstra, to express their thoughts and feelings about their surroundings, their day to day life, festivals and events. Slowly though over a period of generations, the work has come to encompass those objects that perhaps are not really a part of a simple villager's life, but rather a view of the modern life, through a much clearer, point of view.
Most of the villages in the state of Maharashtra have a few 'warli' artists, these artists learn the art of painting these intricate and detailed paintings not in a school, but rather the old fashioned way, sitting by their father's side and observing him draw and paint complex pieces.Traditionally these pieces are not painted on paper or cloth but rather on the walls of the villager's homes, depicting various events, weddings, festivals, village dances, temple processions, harvest and other farming scenes.
        A warli painting has the most humble beginnings imaginable, the artist first prepares the surface to be painted upon by smoothening and plastering the wall with a paste of cow dung, once dry, naturally occurring white clay or calcium is used to draw out the figures, animals, trees, temples and houses. This is the reason why most warli paintings appear as white on brown combinations.  Today as the art form has been popularized so much, it is not rare to find other combinations, but not with too many variations, as these  are the colours that are easily identified with the original tribal art form.

© Wilder India , Illustration - Nayna Shriyan
Temple  Scene 'Shekhroo'
        In creating the book, 'Shekhroo' we wanted to keep the original look and feel of warli, so while we didn't actually use cow dung, and white clay! we did use a rough paper and painted it with a thick coat of poster colour, simulating the slightly coarse look . The figures, background imagery, and supporting cast of animals were all painted in a stark white, while the main staring hero, 'Shekhroo was painted in his original colours of a dark shade of maroon and gold!
         Here he is in his favorite tree waiting by the temple, to know why you will have to read the story!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

WilderIndia- A journey through the animal world of India!

        About two years ago, I saw an post on a yahoo group that I am a member of, for a requirement of an illustration artist to work on some children's books. Now those of you who are regular readers here, will know that I am not an illustration artist and my media are oil paints and of course my beloved metal work, so I would be the last person to be considered for the job. But it sounded like an interesting idea especially since working with children is something that I truly love so I decided why not? So, I emailed the person and boy am I glad I did!

©'Wild States of India'  Pic ©Sinu Kumar
'Sekhroo' ( The Great Indian Malabar Squirrel)

        Sharmila the lady behind 'WilderIndia' was just starting out with her innovative concept of writing original stories with specially created characters based on the state animal from each of the28 states of India. We fixed up an appointment and met up and she told me she wanted me to work with her character 'Shekhroo' which happened to be the state animal of 'Maharashtra' .

         Now Shekhroo or The Great Indian Malabar Squirrel is no ordinary squirrel, I was astounded when I realized that these particular squirrels grow to a gigantic 3 feet!! (well gigantic for a squirrel at the very least!)
         Stunningly beautiful creatures that have a really long tail (which actually makes up most of the three feet length) and two tone fur, their dorsal bodies range from a deep maroon to a dark brown tone with and underbelly of light tan going to a deep gold. These adorable creatures call the 'Sahyadri' range of hills in the state of Maharashtra their home, residing on the tall trees in the forest surrounding the 'Bhimashankar' temple. Highly elusive, most often the only proof of their presence is sight of their messy 'ball of twigs' nest high up in the trees.
In the coming posts I shall be talking about the unique style in which I did the illustrations. Unique because, not only are the characters based on the state, but each book is illustrated in a different style and the set that I worked on has a folk art style unique to that particular state!
So read on in my next post I will be talking of the style of tribal painting called 'Warli' where the people and animals have a really special look !! Stay tuned!

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

My smallest painting yet!!

Miniature painting of Ganesha -Oil on canvas, silver foil, faux gem stones
© 2011 '5.75 x 4.25' inches Nayna Shriyan

           This painting has me going to flash back mode, back to the summer of 2002, right after the final examinations of my final year at Art school. I was dead tired, after the truckload of submissions consisting of a full year's portfolio, supporting metal work, dissertation (which I suspect weighed more than I did at the time ! ) another dissertation on the techniques of metalworking that I had learned in all the four years specializing in metal work. Not to mention the viva (you know where you are faced by all your professors and asked whether you truly believe in what you have slogged for a whole year!) All I was looking forward to was a trip to my native home in Mangalore to the southern part of my country, lush greenery, mangoes, cousins to hang out with and a month long break, but my dad had other plans!  He came home very excited, about how he had discovered a miniature painting workshop in town (by this I mean the city of Mumbai, hee hee, we Mumbaities call the big city town!!) and that he had enrolled me in it! Here I was looking to put my feet up and take it easy, and my dad had a week long workshop planned which meant a two hour train commute again (did I mention, that's exactly how long it for me to and fro home to college!)  
         Well so there I was trudging back the same way, but I was in for a pleasant surprise, as part of the technique for miniature painting was the application of fine gold foil onto the painting surface, a painstaking process involving varnishing the intended area and then allowing the coat of varnish to dry to just the right degree and then gently placing the foil with a brush.
          Recently when I was asked by a client to create a custom gift for some very important people and she said that the piece needed to have a very rich look, I immediately thought of miniature painting. with the rich foil, and faux gem stones. Now my client already had a very intricate silver frame so we decided to substitute silver foil for gold and this Ganesha is the result .
          While in true miniature painting tradition the dimensions of the piece is 5.75 x 4.25 inches the colours themselves are oil on canvas instead of the usual water based colours.Traditionally a mineral based compound is used to give a slight relief to the areas that are gilded, instead, I used texturing white. After applying texturing white to the crown, dhoti and ornaments including the decorations on the two sides, the Ganesha was painted in oils, and boy am I still regretting it!! In order to get a really fine outline, I ended up adding too much linseed oil. So despite having been completed for more than a week now the background black is still wet!
Ganesh painting complete with the silver frame
         The silver foil came next and lastly the faux stones, but the painting truly looked complete once my Ganesha was placed happily into the beautiful silver frame!
Isn't it perfect, almost like the person who designed and created the frame had this very image in mind.

What do you think, should I have stuck to gold or the silver is truly the way to go?