Tag Archives: Art

Ideart: Desert Dancers

Take one white shirt.
desert-dancers-2

Pick up a paint brush and the remains of earlier painting projects. Grab an old comic book of the Amar Chitra Katha persuasion. Copy a ubiquitous picture of a woman in the lehenga-choli-chunari garb. Colour brightly.

The man is a little trickier as this West-Indian costume isn’t easily visible in the aforementioned comics. But a search of ‘Dandiya dancers’ should throw up some references. Since the background was white, I didn’t bother colouring in his clothes at all. The kurta and pyjama are traditionally white. But I did add a splash of colour on his turban, the sash and ended with the mojri-style shoes. Hairfine strokes to denote creases in the cloth, were my finishing touch.

The woman in this picture brings in the colour while the man adds the motion. Together they present a picture of the vibrancy, the sheer energy of Dandiya.

Let’s have the actual design once more
desert-dancers

Garment: Fitted waist-length kurti with cap sleeves and side-slits

Material: Polycot with chequered texturing

Background colour: White

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.02 Black
  • Fevicryl no.301 Pearl White (for highlights on the lehenga)
  • Fevicyrl no.21 Sap Green
  • Fevicryl no.04 Crimson
  • Fevicryl no.11 Lemon Yellow
  • Fevicryl no.10 Indian Red

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

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If you liked this post, also see:

Other Indian designs at Kolam and Kathakali

Reverb10.20: Things I Didn’t Get Around To Doing

I considering quitting but with this post I’ve made it to two-thirds of the way and it’d be a pity to stop now, wouldn’t it? So here goes today’s Reverb10.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance

What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

(Author: Jake Nickell)

Very quickly, off the top of my head, things I didn’t manage to do this year that I could (and possibly should) have done:

  • Followed a consistent exercise schedule
  • Learnt to dance (salsa)
  • Baked
  • Grown a herb garden (I did manage a couple of basil plants and one ajwain)
  • Gone on a trek
  • Visited Vasai and other nature-rich spots in this city
  • Moved out
  • Learnt (again) to drive
  • Painted a mural in my room or on the wall outside my window

Ideart: Sabu-Jupiter Jwala

Another edition of Ideart! It is most delightful to be able to gift something that you’ve put a little piece of yourself into. The boy is at the slightly flummoxed receiving end of this.

Being a typical boy in all such manner of things, he’s a comics aficionado. Grave conversations have been had about the merits of desi superheroes over the firang crusaders. He’s actually a Homer Simpson fan but the American sensation’s face is plastered over teeshirts right across town. I thought it would be fun to bring in a desi touch to the comic characters-on-teeshirts fad. So I started with something familiar to every Indian kid across the country (secretly in cases like mine since my parents didn’t approve of the bad English). The world of Diamond Comics!

Chacha Chaudhary would have been the obvious choice for the tee-shirt with the telling caption of ‘Chacha Chaudhary’s brain works faster than a computer!’ But I felt the concept of a bald, alien giant clad in gold earrings, belted shorts and boots had far more potential.

I looked through a number of images online and offline to get a good sense of Sabu. The drawings were actually a lot more detailed than I remembered them. For example, Sabu’s boots aren’t always the ubiquitous black. Sometimes they match the colour of his shorts, sometimes the belt. The mustache is finely waxed and shaped (presumably garden shears would have been put to use trimming it). And finally his body language lent itself to a delightful range of renditions. Since Sabu is the muscle end of Chacha Chaudhary’s adventures, there are several panels that depict high kicks or punches (with a star-shaped ‘Pow’ bubble).

I put together some amalgamation of all of these. The result shows Sabu preparing to land either a punch or a kick. I know a villian being punched might have added to the image but I wanted a dedication to Sabu, not just a scene from the series. As it turns out, I think Sabu could be mistaken for a (rather clumsy) ballroom dancer.

White and black were my choices for the background. But when I saw this grey, I fell in love with it. Sabu has neither the pristine moral science character of Chacha Chaudhary nor the dark, brooding past of some of the other superheroes. He’s musclepower, sidekick and comic relief all in one. Chacha Chaudhary has to restrain him from some of of his more angry ideas on occasion. He’s treated like a child, a rookie and even a faithful pet. Grey seemed the perfect choice for Sabu.

Given my low confidence with drawing male characters, I took a long time sketching the figure out. The simplicity of Diamond Comics artwork made this a good first step for me. I retained the slight errors in size and perspective because that’s what I see in the actual comics too.

Colouring was the easiest bit of this project, given that Sabu wears very few clothes. A skin tone for the body,  blue shorts, gold earrings and brown belt and boots. The effect was rather like a child’s colouring book so I added some shading. The way to do this is when the base layer of paint is still slighty wet but not runny. Lay a spot or even a thin line of a darker (in the case of the skin) or lighter (the shorts) shade of the same colour and blend in.

I’m rather happy with the way the shading turned out on the arms, especially Sabu’s left arm. The brush strokes left hairfine lines and I didn’t blend them in further because they give the impression of hairiness and add to the desi machismo look.

Sabu’s expression didn’t give away much and I didn’t want the Jupiter giant to be mistaken for a dance instructor. So squiggly lines radiating from his head were added to let the viewer know that Sabu was angry!

And my favorite part of the image – the caption, was detailed below. In Hindi for maximum impact:

Jab Sabu ko gussa aata hain, to Jupiter pe jwalamukhi phatata hain!

(When Sabu gets angry, a volcano erupts in Jupiter)

Garment: Standard size XL men’s tee-shirt

Material: Tee-shirt cotton

Background colour: Gray with white flecks

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.02 Black (for outline, caption, mustache and anger strokes)
  • Fevicryl no.352 Pearl Metallic Gold (for earrings)
  • Fevicryl no.30 Flesh Tint (for skin)
  • Fevicryl no.32 Cerulean Blue (for shorts)
  • Fevicryl no.10 Indian Red (for belt, boots and skin shading)
  • Fevicryl no.305 Pearl Blue (for shorts shading)

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

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If you liked this post, also see:

Other comic book art in Doga: Born In Blood & The Making Of A Superhero: Nagraj

Reverb 10.7: Citizen Of The Community

It feels really odd to address this Reverb10 prompt, fresh on the heels of yesterday’s events. I’m really tempted to pass it up. But I’m plagued by the nagging suspicion that I’ll feel incomplete, like I didn’t give the exercise my best shot. And since I am all about being 100% present in the moment, right now, I’m going to try it. Bear with me on this one, I have a feeling it’ll be a rough ride.

December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

I’ve always been a community-builder. I like people, that is for sure. I am also intrigued by the complexities that are added to human interaction when the numbers increase. I am fascinated by how different people, from different places unite on a common interest or belief and how their differences impact what unites them. Where best to observe and participate in each of these than in a community?

What I loved most about the internet, when I came to it back in 1995, was how much access it gave me to other people. It was really about moving computers from the age of computation to connection.

I started with creating address book lists. I’d frequently send out mailers to different groups, initiating discussions, asking questions. These were the predecessors of what we now call discussion threads. Newsletters have always been around and I tried a version of that in my online space too. Soon enough, I was writing pieces of my own and sending it out to people I thought would be interested. Can’t you already tell that I would love blogging, when it did happen a few years later?

Egroups was the next step (later on called Yahoogroups) and I united my colony friends, my college cronies, my school batch and my extended cousins in various groups. Blogging. Twitter. Facebook. And here we are, now.

After I quit my job, I gravitated to groups of people who shared my interests and my ideologies. These included creative fora, writers groups, literary circles and cultural gatherings. As with every group of people, eventually individual agendas and petty politicking start to eat away the fabric of what originally united people. I’ve learnt that much now but it never gets any easier to deal with.

The events of yesterday had less to do with my standing up for someone close to me and much more to do with being a member of the creative community. A few years ago, I was singing on stage when someone in the audience drenched me in a shower of beer. Following an outbreak of behaviour, the band packed up and refused to perform any more. That was the solidarity of the group. I am disappointed that no one else in the creative community felt the need to speak up or back me up on day before yesterday’s incident, except for the artist who was affected.

A few years earlier, I started facing harassment targetted at my blogging persona. A lot of people then told me to ignore it. And I felt humiliated and let down back then. What was interesting about yesterday is how things have changed. I expressed an opinion and got slammed for it. This included personal attacks and a taunt that my opinion didn’t matter. The Twitterverse rose up in a mighty show of support. There were people I didn’t know very well and some that I did but didn’t even get along with. It was my community stepping up to back me, even if they did not have a direct interest vested in the episode. It was about protecting the rights (to an opinion) of a member of the community.

I am personally very happy to see bloggers and tweeters getting a collective voice and spine in protecting our own. That’s a strong community, in my mind. It keeps us connected and stronger. I am proud to be a part of this community and occasionally have the opportunity to speak for it.

I wish other artists, performers and writers would also band together in a similar manner to uphold and protect our ideals. Perhaps they already do; I just have to discover those specific communities.

Okay that’s the end of it. I warned you it’d be awkward and clumsy. *Sigh* Bear with me, the next one will be better, I promise!

Reverb10.6: The Creative Flow

I actually like the Reverb 10 prompt on this one because I instantly had an answer and it also ties in to one of the most useful insights a friend brought my way earlier this year.

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

I’m going to take this question to exclude the creation of writing. Other that writing, how have my creative ideas been expressed? Let’s see. I discovered a spark of an interest in the kitchen. Instead of falling back on the system, in my case my mother’s teachings and many cookbooks, I went online. I explored a cuisine I knew nothing about (and that my mother knew nothing about). And I experimented. The advantage was that my mother couldn’t stand over me correcting every little action. It freed me up to explore the art of cooking for myself. Full expression and mastery of a creative field does require privacy and the freedom to make your own mistakes. I think my mother doesn’t quite get that and her total and complete control over whatever I do in the kitchen, kills whatever spark I might have. I managed to break free of that by trying this. I made pesto, moussaka, Greek salad and a cake. 🙂 Tummy happy and mummy happy too!

The other thing that I did do is pick up fabric-painting again. Seven years ago, I used it as an escape from a difficult situation I was in. That time it was a bad relationship. This time, it was the anxiety and pressure I felt over my book. Surprisingly it really helped. It was such a comfort to be able to create something that I felt confident about. Alternately it was very relaxing to be able to mess around without anything really invested in the result. I also picked up the Ideart series again. What’s more, in a very funny way, it acted as a lubricant for my then-stuck writing. I guess creative expression through different outlets keeps things moving for an artist.

Of the many things I’d like to create, I’ll narrow down to the same two I’ve spoken of here. I would like to learn cooking further. I already have the basics of vegetarian South-Indian cooking. I identified non-vegetarian cooking and baking as two things I’d like to explore. It’s not entirely a coincidence that my mother does neither of these. She’s a wonder in the kitchen with her South-Indian vegetarian cooking. And somehow, there is just no room for me to experiment or indeed, prove myself there. It feels too much like a competition and one that I’d never win. On the other hand, in non-vegetarian cooking and baking, there’s no question of competition. I’d feel free to just be myself and mess about, confident that whatever turned out would be right and fine. Takes the pressure so very much off but retains all the fun and satisfaction of creation!

The other thing I’d like to do relates to visual art. I would love to paint a mural in my room or on the outer wall of my building. Currently I don’t see that being possible, since a lot of paints spark up my allergies. Having them in my bedroom would be condemning myself to months of allergy attacks. But it’s something that bears thinking about and maybe I’ll revisit it, in the weeks ahead.

I just realized my insight from this prompt was that result-orientedness could kill creativity. It’s a little too Zen to advocate not caring about results at all. But perhaps switching to something else, at least temporarily, can help take one’s mind off the pressure of doing well.

Ideart: Kolam

Kolam is a household art form practised in South India. It is not the same as the North Indian rangoli which is more of a festive occasion icon.

Kolams are created everyday by the lady of the house and are an important ritual to start the day. Traditionally nobody leaves the house till the porch has been cleaned and the kolam laid out at the doorstep. The kolam signifies a welcome to the Goddess of wealth and also anybody else who comes to the doorstep. A subtextual purpose is to feed mice and other small animals in the vicinity. Suffice to say that in many places, few traces of the kolam remain at the end of the day. It is worship and welcome along with providing for smaller beings.

Kolams are made of finely powdered rice and laid out by spilling it from between the index finger and the thumb. The most common kolams have a basic framework of dots and lines curling around them in various loops and rounded designs. The challenge of a kolam is that it must be drawn in one unending line stroke.

The more elaborate kolams are usually reserved for festive occasions and religious ceremonies. Some of them do include colour, geometric patterns and even images of gods, flowers, birds, animals and diyas. Some designs also have special significance to dates and occasions. But the most recognizable (to a South-Indian) designs are the basic dots-with-doodle ones.

I’ve been fascinated by this art form for many years and I learnt it (as all good heritage practices are), from my mother. I started with laying borders, then progressed to simple 16-dot designs and upwards till I was finally elevated to the honour of laying the mahakolam on religious occasions. I tend to be more ambitious than my mother, gunning for more complex designs each time. But she’s much more skilled than I am and her fingers (even stiff with arthritis) manage to lay perfect lines where I spill out shades and strokes of varying thickness. Practice does make perfect with a craft.

There’s not much to tell with the actual technique on this project. I used the thinnest brush I could find. In fact, it was an old brush that had stiffened with earlier, unwashed paint. It suited my purpose perfectly since I needed a stiff surface to guide the paint in a clean, even line. If you’re trying this for the first time, the key is to count the dots in each line, start at any tip and just follow the line. Practice on paper first. I still do that.

I’m rather proud of this one. It actually took just 15 minutes but each one of intense concentration. The design is a first for me – I’ve never laid a kolam with pointed peaks before. One one hand, the technique itself was easier since I am much handier with a paintbrush than I am with powder in my fingers. On the other hand, the surface area was limited and an already intricate design as this one shrunk into that space made it much more complicated.

If you look closely, you’ll notice the paint is not even across the design. But I’m deliberately not touching it up to retain the authentic feel. Real life kolams are not evenly laid out since the powder never falls exactly the same way all through.

This is my kolam, the fine art of welcome.

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

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If you liked this post, also see:

Other Indian designs at Desert Dancers and Kathakali

Ideart: Native American in India

This piece began at the height of my ambition as a fabric-painter. It was one of the few ones where I actively went looking for the garment and bought it only because I had a painting project idea in mind.

It was a creamy-white cotton vest from FabIndia with flat straps and a fringe of hanging plastic beads at the bottom. They had it in a number of other colours but which artist can resist the lure of a plain white?

I saw it and knew it was perfect for a painting. I had initially imagined an Indian motif or scenery, in accordance with my craze at that time. But the garment design was more Western and I’d been doing so many village belles, traditional motifs and dancers that I was looking for a different challenge. The beads at the bottom made me think of Native Americans.

Their images are also colourful, not in same vibrant hues of India but in more muted earthy tones. The fact that the vest was cream and not pure-white made it even better since it would offset the rust and brown tones that I envisioned, perfectly.

The tricky bit was finding the right image to paint. My actual paint area was quite small since the vest is very close-fitting, almost like a tank top. I had to stay within the limits of my (considerably narrow and small) front torso view. You should always see the garment on its wearer before planning a design. It gives you a sense of your boundaries (you can’t exactly print all the way to the side-seams since the areas under the arms will almost never be visible.)

I decided to elaborate my experimentation and do a portrait. I’m more of a big picture person, I like fitting in plenty of details, little sub-plots into the story of a painting and I find portraits generally too boring and one-focussed. So this portrait would have to be a big enough story in its right to hold interest.

I picked a man (once again, rather ambitiously, since I don’t think my sketches of men turn out as well as the ones of women) for my subject so I’d be able to bring in the gorgeous head-gear that the braves wear. I decided he’d be on the older side so the interest value in his face would come from the weathered lines of age (symbolising wisdom and experience) rather than aesthetics. Also, he would have to be older to don an elaborately plumed head-dress (each feather has to be earned by an act of bravery).

I didn’t do any sketches or outlines but started right away with the forehead, worked down to the face and then started on the headdress. The shading on the face turned out much better than I had hoped. It was just a matter of dabbing on varying hues of skin tone before they dried completely, which gave them a chance to mingle and look more realistic. The right corner of the face was touched up with the yellowish hue and I deliberately let the line show since light falling on that side would end in a sharp line.

I didn’t spend too much time on the rest of his body and garments, which is why the neck looks a little off and the collar is of scant interest.

The headdress was the part that I was really waiting for. I stroked out hairfine lines emanating out in all directions from the headdress border. Each line served as the spine of a feather. Using a fine-tipped brush to give the feathery touch, I painted using Fevicryl no.

Quite to my surprise, the most interesting part of this painting turned out to be, not the brave’s headdress but his face itself. I didn’t plan it that way and I certainly didn’t think it would turn out that well (though I’m really thrilled it did)! Art is so much fun when it surprises you this way. I still look at this piece and think,

I did that?! Wow, someone else must have possessed my body at that time and guided my hand.

Garment: Short fitted singlet with plastic bead fringe at hem

Material: Thin cotton

Background colour: Cream-white

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.02 Black
  • Fevicryl no.301 Pearl White
  • Fevicryl no.39 Carmine
  • Fevicryl no.352 Pearl Metallic Gold
  • Rust
  • Mustard
  • Yellow

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Mumbai Ka King Kaun? Deewar Pe Dekho!

A very quick update on yesterday’s street festival. It would have been nice if it had been a day-long fest and each of the events staggered a bit.

I started out with a detailed itinerary, knowing even then the futility of trying to cover all the events. Kya karen, they were all so appealing! I started with the Wall Project, because it was the first event and yes, also because it enjoys a special place in my heart. 🙂

AmZ met me in Bandra and we spent a pleasant (if not fruitless) half-hour driving up and down Tulsi Pipe Road trying to find the others. The event details had only said that the project was open for painting on the blank walls left over from the earlier events. But maybe because of the heat and also since it was a less monitored event, the crowd clustered around a tree-shaded patch close to Mahim.

I daresay some people may have painted over earlier paintings. But I’m just going to take a note from a friend’s diary and say that street art is about layers over layers.

I had a run in with the shopkeeper of the only hardware shop open on that stretch.  I know it was hot but that wasn’t my fault and besides no one should be crabby about doing extra business.  Grrrrr, horrible man!


So I found myself dressed to paint in denim overalls and bright pink rubber gloves but with no paints, no brushes and no wall. Mercifully for me, Manan and his friends invited me to join them in their part of colour splashing. Here are the results.

Since they’d already started their panel, I didn’t join them but I was graciously given both the border panels to splash about with. On the right, I created a warli painting. After all these years of sketching and fabric-painting, this is the first time I’ve actually created this wall art on a real wall. Much fun it was.

E Vestigio was there all along, heckling us and snapping pics. (I do hope she’ll put up a post with them soon!) In retaliation, I incorporated her into the warli painting along with the others who were painting the wall. Can you guess which one she is? The fun bit about an event like this is the camaraderie and silliness that goes hand-in-hand with actually executing the project.

The panel on the left actually had a few pictures of gods and the pavement-dwellers asked us to not touch those. In cognizance of this, a group had left the top half empty and was in the process of creating a Pink Floyd album cover on the bottom. But the top looked rather stark. So I tempered the parts around the pictures with blue paint and created a kolam, which is fairly appropriate next to a picture of the Gods, I think. 🙂

Friends and familiar faces I spotted were Neil Dantas, Shadez and Leztah. The mad (o’ wot?) Sapna Bhavnani screamed out “IDEEEEEEEAAAAAAAA!” as she flew past in an Elvis Presley wig, as a part of the Superheroes on bicycles event. A few panels down, Ranjeet, Neeraj and their gang put up their green and peaceful messages to the world.

The Superheroes on bicycles briefly sailed past us and stopped to ogle our walls and let themselves be ogled at. Much funness. Mumbaikers need to be taught to stare. 🙂

By the time we packed up it was close to 8. So we made our way to Carter Road to catch the Mad Fake Tea Party. It was too dark by then and the party that had presumably been on for a few hours, was winding down. Still we got a few glimpses of funkily dressed people and the remaining postcards on the table.

All in all, we really only did one event completely but as Manan puts it,

What a wonderful, satisfying way to spend a Sunday!

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.

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