Ideart: Retro Shirt & Kolam

I was grumbling the other day to Samir (who must think I’m an awful crank since I’m always subjecting him to my grumpiness). The issue was that I couldn’t bring myself to write. Not that I didn’t have things to write about, but that I was all out of words so to speak. He scratched his chin (or so I imagine since this was on chat) and said,

It’s natural to feel that way. Creativity must find an alternate expression at times.

Yes, the boy is wise, isn’t he? :-)

After reviving my karmic enthusiasm for colour and fabric, I realized that my materials, the paints were woefully past retirement age. So today, I restocked with a new set of paints and five new brushes. A new paintbrush is like a new laptop in a lot of ways. You need to find your way around it and it feels stiff and strange, initially. But it also feels brand new and anything new gets the creative instinct flowing in my veins with the blood.

I pondered on what to start with, for awhile. When you’ve been away from the palatte for awhile, that tends to happen, the brain-freeze, the finger-paralysis. From experience I know I just need to get started and then even if I discard the initial efforts, I’ll be off to a good start.

I set aside the blank tees bought especially to paint on, the kurta that’s been waiting for years now for colour and the much-loved FabIndia cropped tops. Flipping through FeviArt (Fevicryl’s magazine) for inspiration, I found a photo-feature of a fashion show where NIFD had tied up with Fevicryl Hobby Ideas. The models were wearing dresses, tunics and jackets on some sort of shiny material, all splashed with crazy, wild sheeny colours. My eyes have always paused at this page, each time I’ve flipped through the magazine and I knew today was the day my fingers got to follow suit.

I dug out an old Van Heusen shirt I had bought on sale and regretted ever since. The shirt is a creamy silk and crumples with each breath. It’s also large-sized and doesn’t flow the way I had envisioned. Instead, because of the fabric, it clings to the skin and because of its size, looks too large rather than drapy on me. In addition, it’s too short to be tucked in at the waist, thus losing its potential for a Mexican shirt-in-tight-jeans look. But the shiny and clingy fabric was just what was needed for what I had in mind, after seeing the magazine photos.

I didn’t plan anything in particular. The colours I picked out this morning are all from the Fevicryl Pearl range and are from two broad colour groups. Yellow-Green-Turquoise and Blue-Lavender-Pink . I started with the back and just let the brushes play along running the colours into each other. The brushes I used were all flat, square tips and made for some interesting brushstroke textures.

In addition because the fabric was crumpled and stiff at those wrinkles, the colour caught and skipped in places. I decided not to worry about a pattern too much and just play with textures and shades. The front has more of the same though in a different brand of abstract.

Now, the front looks like a paisley print to me while the back has a retro vibe. So I guess, the artwork is consistent in terms of period and styling. I’ll probably wear this with dark fitted jeans. The dried paint should make the fabric a little more stiff. The back has more connected colour strokes so this should make the picture ‘stand’ while the front has seperate patches and due to the contours of the body will probably flow in a wave-like fashion.

Garment:Full sleeved formal shirt

Material:Silk (the shiny kind that crumples easily)

Background Colour: Cream

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl Pearl Lemon Yellow No.302
  • Fevicryl Pearl Green No.304
  • Fevicryl Pearl Turquoise No.320
  • Fevicryl Pearl Blue No.305
  • Fevicryl Pearl Ice Blue No.321
  • Fevicryl Pearl Sky Blue No.319
  • Fevicryl Pearl Garnet No.318
  • Fevicryl Pearl Pink No.303
  • Fevicryl Grey No.07

And here is something I painted the same day as Good Karma, Bad Medicine. Unfortunately the top has gone missing after that day and I don’t feel inclined to writing about it. :-( In any case, the design is a traditional kolam design that I got off the Internet and I only used basic white. The back reads ‘Kolam: The Art of Welcome’ since that’s what the south-Indian rangoli is supposed to be.


I think I’ll do another Kolam sketch and write about it in my next Ideart post.

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*Cross-posted to Divadom.

Ideart: Good Karma, Bad Medicine

A few days earlier I had a thought. The words

Good karma, bad medicine

just formed themselves in my head. I can’t quite explain the thought. It was one of those ideas that just showed itself and vanished before I fully explore it further. It still sounded interesting. I put it up as my Twitter/ Facebook status to see if I could glean anything from it from seeing it in print. Still no luck. It was one of those things that you can just about see from the corner of your eye but never quite catch it straight-on. That’s when it occurred to me that the best way to communicate this thought may be visual and not verbal. And I realized that it had been awhile since I wielded a paintbrush.

The minute I had that thought, the image I needed flashed before my eyes.That was just it. The idea was a picture, not a sentence or story. After that it was just a matter of executing it. Luckily I had a plain black singlet handy and kept waiting for just such a time. A budding artist learns to store away material that could come in useful.

This is a tank top, that I picked up the first time I saw it because it is the thin, stretchy tee-shirt cotton material. There are no big logos or pictures on it and the cut is basic but curved along the sides rather than the straight up-and-down of unisex tees. I hate those since they hang and tug alternately.

The first thing I had to do was figure out a way to get rid of that little logo in the corner (little as it was, it was still in a white rubberprint and stood out) since that would certainly not do with the idea I had in mind. I was out of black paint so I tried dark blue and dark green but the rubber print of the logo showed right through both of these. Finally I coated it with Fevicryl Pearl Black no. 306.

I wanted the picture to be exactly in the middle of the visible area of the tee-shirt. If you are painting a tee-shirt for the first time, I recommend putting it on and marking off the area while still wearing it. Otherwise, one is used to the stark, solid borders of paper and too often the artwork goes over the visible area or looks too small or big. Clothes fall on each person’s body differently and ideally you should always see the garment on the wearer before painting on it. This area usually comes to about 8in x 8in or 20cm x 20cm on my clothes (and I rather smugly report that it turned out a perfect square without using a ruler or even pencil sketching!)

I started with a swirly line using a thin brush and Fevicryl Pearl Spring Green no.311 and then Fevicryl Cerulean Blue no.32. But I realized that a psychedelic design with multiple colours would need to have broad strokes for each colour to be visible and not get lost in too-intricate strokes so I switched brushes. After that it was a random selection of colours applied in strokes, splashes, squiggles and splotches. I painted over in a number of places and in other places I also used the same brush in multiple colours without cleaning the brush. This last gives the effect that you can see to the right of the second dot on the right. The yellow and pink run parallel for a bit before the yellow strikes out on its own. The colours must not be too liquidey if you want this effect since otherwise they’ll merge into each other.

This is one design where red (my favorite colour) was not the most striking note. On the contrary, the red quite got lost in the gloss of the other pearly tints so I used it as background in a number of places. When I had covered the entire square, I dabbed on circles with the Fevicryl Pearl Spring Green no.311 and you can see the colours beneath through the thin veneer of the green, in places.

I originally intended to paint the words over this design in black or white. But I realized the paint area was too small to fit in words and besides, it was too striking to waste as background. Besides, there was enough room above and below for lettering.

I tried for a digital-looking font and a religious-looking orange (Fevicryl Metallic Red no. 356) for the words ‘Good Karma’. In contrast the words ‘Bad Medicine’ at the bottom are in a more graffiti-like font in a Fevicryl Pearl Lemon Yellow no. 302.

Finally I noticed that the painted-over patch over the logo in the bottom right corner had dried and was standing out against the black. So I painted on a stretch in the same colour across the tee-shirt, a sort of rough underline the way one would highlight a graffittied sentence.

I’m not sure whether the finer points like font and colour would be noticed but I’m guessing they would register at a sublimnal level. The message just is one of those things. I wore this with worn-out blue jeans, a silver chain double-looped around my neck with a New Age faerie pendant. It got some appreciation. :-)

Good Karma, Bad Medicine

Garment: Sleeveless ladies tee-shirt

Material: Hosiery cotton

Background colour: Solid Black

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl Pearl Black no. 306
  • Fevicryl Cerulean Blue no. 32
  • Fevicryl Crimson no. 04
  • Fevicryl Pearl Spring Green no. 311
  • Fevicryl Pearl Pink no. 303
  • Fevicryl Pearl Lemon Yellow no. 302
  • Fevicryl Pearl Metallic red no. 356

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* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Ideart: Rose Garden

This is part of my series on fabric painting (after Peacock and Kathakali). But this was actually painted much earlier than those two.

I had this terrycot shirt checked orange and white. The overall effect was a sort of mustard. It’s not a colour I’ve ever been fond of or one that flatters me. Painting it was a rather delayed decision since it doesn’t occur to one intuitively to paint over something that already has a pattern on it. But I realized that the pattern was neither overwhelming nor highly visible. And it would serve perfectly well as a background.

I used several pictures of roses to figure out the basic geometric shapes and swirl-patterns that I’d need to use. It turned out to be surprisingly easy. I started with a round wavy shape (like little kids drawings of flowers) using black paint (Fevicryl no.02 Black). Then I added more waves and curlicues inside it. After that it’s just a matter of colouring and adding leaves.

The painting was actually loads of fun, the messy, splashy way. I made blobs of the basic red paint (Fevicryl no.39 Carmine) on the fabric. Then before it was dry, I daubed on the shimmery pink (Fevicryl no.303 Pearl Pin). The pink was probably an older bottle so it had gone a little creamier while the red, newer was liquidey. The net effect was that the pink stood on its own but blurred into the red at the edges to give a lovely shaded effect. I waited for these to dry before outlining and highlighting in black again.

The leaves were done using a similar principle – outlined in black, filled in with basic green (Fevicryl no.06 Dark Green) and daubed with the shimmery green (Fevicryl no.357 Pearl Metallic Green). And finally redefined with black once that was dry.

The details came in later. I added hairfine strokes of black to show the stems. Tiny buds with triangle-shaped leaves in blue (Fevicryl no.32 Cerulean Blue); these were done with  a thin brush dipped in colour and then pressed flat down on the cloth. These were given yellow (Fevicryl no.302 Pearl Lemon Yellow) centers. The leaf veins were lined with bronze (Fevicryl no.355 Pearl Metallic Bronze).

I started intending to only paint the back since it had an unbroken visage (the front has buttons all the way down so it’s difficult to do one contiuous painting). Then it looked so good that I added some detail in the front to match the theme.

rose-garden-3

The front detailing is not uniform copy of the back. While the back is just one pattern of roses scattered all over, the front shows a rose-trellis creeping up on one side and small bouquet-like collection of flowers on the other side that look like they’ve been plucked off the plant and dropped on the ground.

rose-garden-2

On the same side, I added a tiny rosebud and leaf detail on the collar.

rose-garden-1

Garment: Waist-length shirt with short sleeves and collar

Material: Terrycot with tartan texture

Background colour: Orange-brown with white threads running through

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.02 Black
  • Fevicryl no.39 Carmine
  • Fevicryl no.303 Pearl Pink
  • Fevicryl no.06 Dark Green
  • Fevicryl no.357 Pearl Metallic Green
  • Fevicryl no.355 Pearl Metallic Bronze
  • Fevicryl no.32 Cerulean Blue
  • Fevicryl no.302 Pearl Lemon Yellow

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Ideart: Kathakali

I’m fascinated by Indian designs, motifs and art forms. Such vibrant colour! Such dazzling variety! I did a set of pieces called ‘Tandav’ using motifs and images from Indian dance forms. Sadly enough I didn’t think to take pictures back then and most of those garments have been worn out and discarded.

Kathakali (for the uninitiated) is a classical dance form from Kerala. The movements are small and detailed, all in the eyes and fingers. The costumes, especially for the men are the most delightful part of the dance. The make-up and costume apparantly take upto 6 hours to don. I was fascinated by the phlethora of colours on the Kathakali costume. This is my tribute to this grand art.

I used a plain black terrycot vest. It was a few years old and unused because it was too broad for me and the fabric wasn’t the soft, clingy variety that would look good, loose. It turned out to be perfect for holding an elaborate, heavy paint picture and the black background was just what I needed to offset all the colours. Black is the one colour that you won’t find in a traditional Hindu costume so it brought out the other colours really well.

I looked up a number of photographs of  Kathakali costumes before settling on this design. Instead of a complete costume as I had originally planned, I decided to concentrate on only the face since I felt the detailing of jewellery and make-up was a masterpiece in itself. My painting is a close-up of just the face of a Kathakali dance hero. The final result was a mixture of several different costumes that I saw.

The painting looks very elaborate but was actually very simple to execute. The lines were clean, I didn’t need to use any shading and the drama in the piece comes from the vibrant colours.

I outlined the face with a sliver of soap. The outline took several tries before I could get it to be perfectly symmetrical and even then I did make one side slightly larger. The thing about fabric paints is that you never erase, you  just paint over or improvise, which is what I did here. The curve on the right of the face was actually smoothened out by painting over with Fevicryl no.02 Black. Okay, I cheated. :-)

The bottom piece is Fevicryl no.27 White. I refrained from using silver (even though it would catch the light well) because I wanted to retain the authenticity of the image. The jewellery was  Fevicryl no.352 Pearl Metallic Gold and for the sapphires, I used  Fevicryl no.32 Cerulean Blue. I had actually used plain red for the jewels but it didn’t look as impressive, especially since the swirls on the headpiece were the same colour, so I painted over with the metallic range.

Initially I had thought I’d leave the eyebrows and kohl edging unpainted since the background was black. However after finishing the rest of the piece, those areas looked dull (on account of the shiny dry paint) so I finished them up with  Fevicryl no.02 Black. I also outlined every border between two colours in the same black. This makes the colours stand out better and should be used only when shading is not used.

Incidentally I painted this piece when I was nearing the end of my colour stock so I also used the opportunity to clear out the little remaining paint that I had in most of my bottles. Hence there are some uneven splashes of colour here and there that are not duplicated elsewhere (because I ran out of that shade!). I think it adds to the vibrancy of the piece without any one colour making a statement in itself. I wanted the facial green and white edging to be the central focus.

The one tricky bit was the face itself. Having finished the big areas of colour, I was left with a bright piece which did not quite look human. Adding lines on a sketch of a face is always risky since it can make your subject look old. I used a hairfine brush to add a few strokes for nose. The laughlines were an afterthought and I actually drew them too long which made the face look pulled down. So I corrected by painting over with the facial green. A couple of spots on the right corner of the face and little dash under the lower lip made it seem more human.

Since the vest was still too big for me, with gaping, wide armholes, I teamed this up with a bright green FabIndia shirt. The shirt itself was an impulse buy and I didn’t quite know what to wear it with since the cut was too severe for casualwear and the colour too bright for office. Since only the sleeves are visible, it matched the green face paint of the dancer well. I’ve always worn this with classic blue straight-fit jeans but I daresay straight black pants could add a slightly more evening-formal look. If I was feeling upto going all gypsy, I’d wear this over a flowing skirt.

kathakali1

(If you like this piece, watch for Desert Dancers, another other Tandav piece that I’ll write about, shortly)

SeriesTandav

Garment: Sleeveless waist-length vest

Material: Terrycot

Background colour: Black

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.27 White
  • Fevicryl no.o2 Black
  • Fevicryl no.32 Cerulean Blue
  • Fevicryl no.352 Pearl Metallic Gold
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Green

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

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If you liked this post, also see:

Other Indian designs at Kolam and Desert Dancers.

Ideart: Peacock

This is the first of a series of posts on my artistic experiments. I realised that since each work is a story in visual form, I can write a post about it too. This is one of my recent success stories. I’ve only worn it twice!

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Purple was an unusual colour for a background. This was a pretty dark shade, almost a brinjal-like shade so light and bright colours would show well. However unlike black that has a solid personality of its own and pretty much offsets anything that contrasts it, purple is a more – shall we say – malleable colour? The combination of colours you choose sets the tone for how you interpret purple.

For example, teamed with vermillion and gold, it would cue royalty, the way monarchs of old would wear it. You’d imagine velvet (purple) edged with rich brocade (the other colours). On the other hand matched with hot pink, it would be more funky-punk. Line up purple with black and you have futuristic, especially if edged with silver.

I decided to try a different tack. I’ve always been fascinated by the peacock’s spectrum of colours. Vibrant blues, indigo, violet, green, turquoise and yellow. It was probably a bit of a risk putting all those against a purple background since purple does belong to a related colour-family (on account of the blue but different because of the red in it).

The garment is a thin cotton vest that I bought off the roadside. The fabric was thin enough to absorb all the paint and stiffen when it dried, which was ideal since I was painting across the whole front and it would lose appeal unless the entire picture was on display.

I’m not great at sketching animals so I decided to focus on the vivid colours instead. There was no sketching involved here. I just lined the peacock’s head in thin white line (which was subsequently coloured over) and went splash-dunk into a riot of colour (my favorite technique). I think it came out pretty well.

For each feather, I started with the outer-most colour (Fevicryl no.12 Light Green) and then painted over with each inner layer in the following order – Fevicryl no.32 Cerulean Blue, Fevicryl no.352 Pearl Metallic Gold and Fevicryl no.46 Bamboo. I touched up a few of the feathers with Fevicryl no.305 Pearl Blue so the sheen in the colour would catch the light. The plumes and eye were done in Fevicryl no.301 Pearl White while the beak was Fevicryl no.355 Pearl Metallic Bronze.

I have a dusky skin tone which normally looks sallow with such a dark colour but since it is  matched by the feather highlights and contrasted by the bright blues and greens, I think I carry it off well. I team it up with jeans, usually a dark blue. The last time I wore this, a gusty wind swirled around making me feel like I really was welcoming the monsoon.

peacocks

Garment: Loose waist-level vest

Material: Thin cotton

Background colour: Purple

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.12 Light Green
  • Fevicryl no.46 Bamboo
  • Fevicryl no.32 Cerulean Blue
  • Fevicryl no.301 Pearl White
  • Fevicryl no.305 Pearl Blue
  • Fevicryl no.352 Pearl Metallic Gold
  • Fevicryl no.355 Pearl Metallic Bronze

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* Cross-posted to Divadom.

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