Discovering the Artist within me (Part I) – Art? What’s that again?

Art is something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings… Merriam Webster.

By this definition, everything that’s created with imagination and skill,  and which either looks/feels good or expresses an important idea or emotion, can be classified as art. For this reason, I suppose, a piece of music that makes the listeners swing and dance (looks/feels good) is art; a caricature-composition that obviously requires a lot of imagination and skill to create and which expresses an important idea, is art; a dramatic scene in a movie that is directed with imagination and acted out with skill, and makes people bite their nails (expresses/conveys important feelings) is art.

By this definition, what may be art for you might not be art for me, for the expression must be understood and felt. By the same definition, something that’s created with imagination and skill, but is neither beautiful nor expresses an important idea or feeling, isn’t art; nor is something that’s created without imagination or skill but expresses and important idea or a feeling – (a pamphlet, a news item?)

As I go through the history of art, learning from it in bits and pieces, I realize that art is evolutionary. What is considered art at one time and place may not be considered so in another. In the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth century when art separated itself from the visual renderings of religious nature, and began acquiring a personality of its own, most of the works that were acclaimed internationally, had one or both of these characteristics.

  1. They evoked an emotional response in their viewers.
  2. They were aesthetically pleasing.

The degree to which each of these characteristics would be experienced by the viewers varies, and yet, these are the two basic reasons why people buy the art of an unknown artist. (The known artist’s work is often bought by art-investors who “invest” in the works of an artist who’s expected to become a star. These characteristics don’t matter then.)

Let us look at two interesting works. (I’m not good with the names of the art-periods and the art-schools, and as I’m studying them mostly to “feel” art, I won’t force myself to remember them.)

The Scream by Edvard Munch.

This painting by Munch reminds me of my times of hopelessness. Most of us have been through dark times in our lives, and while we could argue about the degrees of darkness that one may have experienced, for each individual his darkness is made of the deepest darkest black. Munch’s Scream for me is soundless and endless. It draws a strong emotional response from me.

And this is my response to the painting, not to the artist, nor to the artist’s own pain. I knew nothing of Munch when I had first seen an image of this painting.

The Scream definitely isn’t aesthetically pleasing to me. I won’t want it on my living room wall because every time I’d look at it, I’d be hurled back into that half-forgotten pit of darkness. And yet, for me, it’s a work of art. While it may be pointed out that it’s illustrative or even symbolic and thus doesn’t open itself to multiple interpretations, I still consider it art, for it even darkness is interpreted differently by each one of us.

American Gothic by Grant Wood.

When this painting was first displayed, it aroused emotions of different kinds. Mostly because the Iowans felt that it didn’t really depict the kind of people they were. And yet, after almost ninety years and tens of thousands of miles away, this painting still evokes an emotional response from me. It makes me think of life as a book filled with pages that the read the same throughout. It slaps me across the face to wake me up, and sends me scrambling to find a notebook or a sketchbook; it reminds me that life isn’t about living in comfort and dying within…because that’s my personal takeaway from the expressions I see on the faces of the farmer and his daughter (or Wood’s dentist and Wood’s sister.)

The emotional response isn’t as strong as the one evoked by The Scream, but it isn’t as dark either. If I could afford it, I’d love to own the American Gothic. The painting also has a stronger aesthetic dimension for me. I love the skill with which it’s painted, and I love the overall composition. The straight verticals, the neat and clean house in the background, the expressions on the two faces, the metal of the pitchfork, everything’s been painted with such finesse. I love it!

Over the next few weeks, I intend to look at other major artworks and measure my own responses to them, because I really want to figure out what my own view of art is.

Comments and suggestions to help me on this journey would be appreciated from the bottom of my heart 🙂

 

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Plans are…a Switch!

 

Plans are a switch – You toggle them on and off, as you like. 
Or they are a glitch…in every unplanned event in your life.

This is why I don’t like plans.

No, I am not tossing “plans” into the bin without trying them out. You know well that there was a time I’d make plans and announce them right here on my blog, hoping that announcing them to my readers would help me keep them.

But no – my plans were a switch. 

I’d switch them off on the slightest opportunity of having to do something more interesting. It wasn’t working out at all.

So I made up my mind and decided to follow them come what may. I ignored the random fun and happy things that happened around me, and I tried staying true to them. But honestly, all it did to me was make me feel miserable.

And I began thinking of plans as a glitch.

You see, most of the fun events are unplanned. You do them because you want to do them at a particular moment. Or you do them because they’ve been needling you for a very long time…but your plans, your logical and practical plans that you made with a hundred constraints in place were making you postpone them.  So my plans suddenly became a glitch in everything I really wanted to do.

Caught between the switch and the glitch…your plans, you see, are nothing more than a pain in your…oh well, your precious derrière. (The French do have a delicate way of putting things.) I decided to ditch both the switch and the glitch, to let the reasonably trustworthy hand of fate take over the puppeteering of my life from me.

Until reason returns… please don’t hold me responsible for my actions. I would have no hand in whatever I do.

So, don’t ask me why I’m posting Malcolm Gladwell’s caricature here. It just happened.

Caricature Portrait of Malcolm Gladwell, the Author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and What the Dog Saw.

Caricature Portrait of Malcolm Gladwell – Digital Painting – Actual Size: 10 inches by 12 inches at 300 dpi.

Perhaps because we started our careers in publishing with the same magazine, The American Spectator…or because I find the intense look in his eyes disconcerting and intriguing at the same time…or just because in this beautiful moment, I’m making unplanned, unreasoned decisions.

Read the original post about Gladwell’s caricature, and about my first assignment with The American Spectator, and if you are interested in checking out my Portfolio without the clutter of my mutterings and musings, please head over to shafalianand.wordpress.com.

 

Emotions & Expressions – Part I – And the Lefty-Lefty Bond.

Emotions lead to expressions and without expressions, caricatures are merely dead drawings, only marginally better than portraits. To breathe life into caricatures we must attempt to reflect their emotions on their faces, even postures.

According to Robert Plutchick there are 8 basic emotions:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Joy
  • Disgust
  • Surprise
  • Trust
  • Anticipation

If the list was limited to these 8 emotions, and corresponding 8 expressions, the caricaturists would have been a happy lot. The problem lies in the following two facts:

  • humans experience these emotions in different degrees – thus, the intensity of fear could cause either a slight tingling of the spine or a need to…scat. Thus, one might be “apprehensive” or “scared to death.”
  • humans often experience a mix of different emotions and not a single, isolated emotion. We experience a combination of anger, fear, and sadness when we experience jealousy; a concoction of sadness and disgust when we are dumped in love; and a heady mix of anticipation and joy while falling in love.

The following drawing (a very rough sketch. Allow me to quickly blame it on bad lighting and a crick in my neck painstakingly acquired through my bad posture,) too presents a mix of emotions. Which ones can you identify?

Anxious, worried, troubled, afraid, angry? Emotions and Expressions - Caricatures and Cartoons

A sketch from my sketchbook – Photographed in horrible light.

And now…a story 🙂

I was at the bank waiting in a long queue.

I ask you. What does an artist do when she must kill time?

Correct Answer: She draws.

So standing between a rather large gentleman in front and a rather skinny lady behind, I drew out my sketchbook and began sketching.

I ask you again. What happens to an artist when she starts drawing?

Correct Answer: She loses touch with her surroundings.

So as I furiously sketched some furious looking faces from my imagination, I lost touch with reality. People who stood around me realized that they could kill time too…by watching me draw.

I ask you, one final time. What happens when a small crowd begins to watch an artist?

Correct Answer: One of the interested onlookers decides to destroy the artist’s peace.

So while I was floating on a different and rather enlightened plane, hanging safely from the parachute of peace, I heard a chirpy voice, which sliced through the fabric of my metaphysical parachute and sent me hurling back to the harsh terrain of reality.

“Ooooooooh…,” cooed the young fashionista who had materialized in the bank while I was on my plane of enlightenment. “So you are left-handed? So am I.”

I stared at her blankly. Oh wow! I thought. I must be so fortunate to meet another one of the 750 Million lefties of the worldWho would’ve thought of it! Somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew that I should throw away my sketchbook, open my arms, and hug the lefty woman like I would hug my only sister who I may have lost in the Thar desert (and who my parents never told me about.) But I didn’t. Instead, I chose to lose that opportunity by nodding at her and saying, “um…oh,” whatever that meant.

The young woman gave me an odd look (expression?) that I read as, “is she dumb or what?” Actually, I was dumb…founded. I guess the lefty-lefty bond is something to cherish and celebrate, but I can’t imagine what good can come out of it.

  • Could it be that if two lefties walked into a bar, they’d get two drinks for the price of one?
  • Or could it be that if two lefties got together, they could change the world?
  • I mean, what difference does it make to anyone, if two lefties fell in love and had lefty babies?

The only thing that happened that day was that I couldn’t complete my drawing, and she went back with a long-face. So when one lefty accosts another lefty with an “oooooooh…” neither gets anywhere!

Now, back to the drawing board to right the wrong…the sinister…the gauche…the…

Oh, what the heck!

 

Read some, draw some, write some, but blog none? Ho hum!

I last posted about the Song of Ice and Water series by GRR Martin. I can now declare that I am two books into the series already. With the way life’s been this past month, Martin gets the credit for this feat of mine. He weaves such a complex web of tales studded with such intriguing characters, that once caught in it, you can’t leave, until you’ve traversed along every shiny sliver that holds his web of ice and water together.

So I read some.

Then I painted a magazine cover with the portraits of three gentlemen, and now I am painting another cover with a whole mad group of toony looking people on it. I got some inquiries that made me scratch my head rather furiously and lose some hair. I’m also looking forward to painting a couple of beautiful covers for SFF author Barbara G. Tarn, who is also a long time friend.

So I drew some.

I spent some time writing some short stories around the concepts that inspired my hat paintings. I should’ve been writing a new story for the new quarter of the Writers of the Future contest, but for some inexplicable reason, I was more drawn to explore the human mind and its machinations – and so ended up writing these stories, which are more in the realm of psychological fiction.

So I wrote some.

But I couldn’t blog. There are times when you want to find a quiet corner and create. I guess that the last whole month was that time for me 🙂

 

The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Sometimes somethings come to you unbidden. They steal upon you with the finesse of a cat and surprise you; they wipe the frown off your brow and break your face into a smile.

I had been hankering after The Song of Ice and Fire for more than a year. Actually, since I watched Game of Thrones on TV. I’d look it up whenever I’d visit a book shop, but I could never bring myself to buy it. A set of seven books, each splitting at the seams with about a thousand pages, can make you worry. Will you be able to read them all? Will you like the author’s writing style? Will the story be engaging enough? It’s one thing to sit through an hour-long episode and another to plod through an unending ocean of words. Before you’ve read an author, you never know whether his words are tiny angels that will take you in a world that you won’t want to leave, or little black devils that will plunge you into the depths of reading hell. I had never read anything by George R. R. Martin, so I had no idea what kind of little guys his words were.

Now you must be wondering why I didn’t buy just one book at first and then went for the others? That would be the practical thing to do. Unfortunately, I am not practical. I haven’t made a single practical decision in my life. I am impulsive and emotional. One of the zillion impractical impulses that drive my life is buying books that aren’t just great to read but that also look beautiful. I also like books from an author to look like they belong to him. So unless I’ve already fallen for a specific writer’s work, and I must buy their books as soon as they hit the stalls, I enjoy getting sets. They give me a sense of security and continuity. I know that after finishing one book, I’ll have the next one waiting!

Now George Martin’s books tell one long story, they look mysterious and attractive, and I couldn’t say if I’d be hooked or be saddled – and so the plan of getting the books went into limbo, but the secret yearning didn’t fade away.

Three days ago, I received an unexpected gift. Wrapped in red, it stood on my desk. I suddenly knew what a groom in an Indian arranged marriage feels when he first sees his bride – a package wrapped in red, a bundle of surprises, but first he must lift the veil.

I picked it up, expecting it to be lighter than it was, and immediately knew that it had books inside. All those words, they weigh a lot. For the last whole month, I hadn’t mentioned my craving for GRRM’s books – not once! And yet, there they were! Looking awesome, fantastical, mysterious, rich, and inviting!

Here’s a picture of my treasure:

Song of Ice and Fire - the set of 7 Books - Game of thrones by George R. R. Martin.

Ready to forget myself!

The books in the picture aren’t in sequence. Here’s the order in which you must read the series “A Song of Ice and Fire”:

  1. A Game of Thrones
  2. A Clash of Kings
  3. A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow
  4. A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold
  5. A Feast for Crows
  6. A Dance with Dragons: Dreams and Dust
  7. A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast

I’m already at page 359 of A Game of Thrones, and this is just the beginning of my journey into Westeros and Essos.

I am also reminded of the only Game of Thrones character that I’ve ever sketched – Peter Dinklage in the role of the unforgettable Tyrion Lannister – the only Lannister who stands tall (I speak from what I know of him through the first 359 pages.)

Caricature, Cartoon, Pencil Portrait of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) - Game of Thrones

Knowledge and Cunning are my most lethal weapons!

 

 

Writers of the Future Contest – Honorable Mention.

Here’s the story of the story that I wrote for the Writers of the Future Contest, and which won me this cute blue badge 🙂

Writers of the Future - Honorable Mention badge for my science fiction short story.

It all began in mid-September with David Farland’s newsletter, in which he mentioned that the deadline for sending the fourth quarter entries for Writers of the Future contest was September 30th. Like all serious readers of his newsletter, I considered the date seriously, and noted it on my whiteboard. Then I checked out the site and realized that the contest invited entries only in Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, which meant that the stuff that I had been writing until then, which included modern-day mysteries, thrillers, or even inspirational stories involving non-fantastical real world beings such as cats, dogs, even birds; wasn’t welcome.

This limited the scope somewhat. My connection with fantasy genre is limited to a casual reading of Tolkien’s LOR and an artist’s peek into my wonderful client Barbara G. Tarn’s books. That left me pondering if science fiction was something I could play with. I enjoy watching science fiction movies and I am Michael Crichton fan. My regular readers know that I own a rickety time-machine that has developed a habit of running out of fuel in odd places and times. Oh, and I am an engineer by education. All this made me decide upon science-fiction as the genre for my contest-entry.

And so I wrote a story and uploaded it for the contest. Right after the bird had flown, I began to see the cracks in my story. My descriptions of smells, sounds, even the characters were either non-existent or minimal;  stuff that I had just skipped over suddenly started looking important, the climax of the story came too late, the resolution could’ve been stronger…the list went on and on – the only thing that actually made sense still, was the story, and a wow that it had garnered from its only reader, my rougher and saner other-half. After berating myself for being in such a tearing hurry all the time, I shook my head, got rid of those nagging thoughts, forgot about the story I had sent, and got back to work.

In the first week of December, I received a surprise email from Ms. Joni Labaqui of Galaxy Press telling me that I had won an Honorable Mention for my story. The badge arrived this morning and I just had to share it 🙂

So there you go. That was my story of the story that I wrote for the Writers of the Future contest.

Now I must get back to the drawing tablet 🙂 I will share some of my new creations with you very soon.

 

Paris Attacks – Why?

Paris Attacked

They attack everything that celebrates life.
They love to spread hatred and sow strife.

They do it…
Because they follow orders unthinking,
They walk around like zombies, unblinking.

They do it…
Because they think that the world is theirs by right.
They kill because they want to show their might.


They walk into a concert, they throw grenades,
they blow-up and smoke rises against the colonnades,

They do it…
Because venom was injected in their blood-stream,
long before they began to love, desire, and dream.

They do it…
Because caught in the web of their rote-learning,
they only want to see everything else burning.

Pen and Ink portrait of a girl - 9/11 and Terrorism. Cue-art for Creativity Carnival.

Sometimes the harshness of reality blinds us. It makes us avert our eyes, turn our back, and run away – back to the comfort of our homes, where we think we are safe.
But the reality doesn’t cease to exist.
It exists as 9/11, 11/26, Charlie Hebdo, and yesterday’s Paris Attacks.
We see the flares and wonder how it may have happened.
Then we turn and go back to the comfort of our homes, where we think we are safe.

 

The Caricaturist Returns from Krypton via Atlantis!

Just returned 🙂

A time-travel-space-travel combo can leave you drained! As you might’ve already surmised, my visit to Krypton took place in the past, before the planet had exploded. I didn’t go there by choice, General Zod‘s forces had abducted me and taken me away to caricature the whole council of elders. (Apple-polisher, that General Zod.) I had finished creating all their caricature-portraits just a few days before the cataclysm – and from there I was jettisoned into the future and landed in Argo City. Most of my time there, I was a prisoner who was tortured and had to draw whatever they wanted me to draw.

Superman helped me escape. Mainly because Krypto the Superdog put in a good word for me. I must tell you that Superman might be a great guy otherwise, but he really needs to wash that cape of his.

Unfortunately, before I could land safely back and before my feet could find solid ground, Superman was charmed away by a bevy of Atlantian beauties; meanwhile I was whisked away to Atlantis, where I was once again forced to paint their council of elders.

Last night, I suddenly woke up in my own bed. I have no idea how I reached home, but I have a feeling that the Atlantians decided that I was changing a nation of beautiful people into caricatures of themselves, and so they decided that enough was enough!

And so, ladies and gentlemen! I am back 🙂

Hats Women Wear: Portraits my Heart Painted.

I am painting the fourth portrait now. I started at 2 in the morning.

I love these hats because I paint them for the creator who lives inside me. Each of these hats is special because they lack design. I haven’t attempted to channel or even hide the chaos. Each of these has evolved organically. Usually I start an artwork with a sketch  then paint over it. I do this more out of need, I’d say; when you illustrate for a publication, there’s a review process that entails an approval on the sketch. The hat-paintings are all done without a supporting sketch. I would start painting a face, expressions would emerge; I’d then read those expressions and paint a hat that told the story of the expression on the face.

Artists speak of inspiration, of a portrait that painted itself; illustrators don’t. But within every illustrator lives is an artist. I don’t meet mine very often, but when I do – I paint stuff that’s oddly out-of-place on this blog.

For those who haven’t seen the hats yet.

Hats women wear - hat number 3 - portrait art - shafali - emotional and physical abuse

 

Women Girl Portraits - Face and Hat - Depression - Digital Painting by Shafali

 

Portraits of Women - Face, profile, side face, hats that women wear - this is hat 2, the hat of ambition.

 

The hats happened quite suddenly. Then they stopped. For about three months, I didn’t paint any. Now, I’m painting them again.

I can’t explain my behavior. Perhaps you can. I just know when I must paint them – the why of the hats as well as the inspiration, evades me.

 

Fatigued…but will post something new tomorrow.

Dear Fellow-bloggers and my other Visitors,

Thanks for everything. For visiting my blog, for participating in the Creativity Carnival, for choosing my blog to confer awards upon it, and for liking and following. I’ve been a brat, I know. And I am sorry for not responding. I haven’t even been checking the Reader so no blog-visits either. I soon hope to be better and more in my element (the indefatigable artist.)

Just wanted to stop by and say thank you to everyone.

More tomorrow.

Shafali

A Creativity Carnival – for Artists, Writers, Poets, and other Oddballs!

Friends, I still haven’t decided upon a Feature I’d want to go ahead with, but I did have a Creativity Carnival in mind.

I trust the following image captures what I had in mind for it. I’d like to thank my blogging101 friends for their inputs on it. While I am still not sure whether this should be a weekly event, I was wondering if some of us would like to give it shot, if I started it, say, coming Friday (July 31, 2015.)

Possible rules in a nutshell (Please recommend addition/deletion)

  1. Participating bloggers will have a week to make the post.
  2. The Pen and Ink Caricature drawing will serve as a cue.
  3. Participating bloggers would be welcome to write a story, an anecdote, a poem, or even draw a picture or post a doodle in response to the cue.
  4. Participating bloggers  will integrate the caricature-drawing into their posts.
  5. Participating bloggers will provide a ping-back to the carnival post so that other participants can visit their blogs and comment, like, and socialize.

Creativity Carnival for wordpress bloggers

Should I, should I not?

I had tried it once, but such an event cannot thrive on its own. I looked at the Daily Post event form – and a Creativity Carnival doesn’t fit into any of the given categories.

If you think that you’d like to be a part of it, please leave a smiley in the comments 🙂

More later – Keep drawing, writing, and smiling!

 

Interesting stuff about to tumble out of Shafarnia’s cupboard.

Ok. Blogging101‘s moderator Ms. Weber has given us a breather. She says that today’s assignment (about choosing the right theme for your blog ) doesn’t require a post. But this blog requires a non-blogging101 post – if I don’t make it pronto it has threatened to go on strike. I cannot be sure of how my blog got this absurd idea, but I suspect it has recently joined a union of blogs, and the disgruntled blogs are now demanding bonus posts!

Anyone who knows me (and I cannot claim that many do,) know that I am putty in the hands of those close to me – and after 5 years of togetherness, this blog and I have become rather close. So I’ve already buckled under the threat and planned three posts. The subjects of the posts however aren’t happy with the idea of being used for the purpose of pacifying this grumpy blog.

A Public Service Notice:

Please check whether your blog too has become a member of the Blog Union. If it has, you may be in serious trouble. My suggestion is to give in and make some good posts that help you win back your blog’s affections.

 

Title, Tagline, and the Journey of this Blog.

  • Note for blogging101 co-bloggers: This blog’s title is: “Shafali’s Caricatures, Cartoons, and Portraits,” and it’s tag-line is: “Draw to Smile.”
  • Note for all other visitors, this is just another post from your quirky caricaturist.

This blog was born on December 11, 2009. I still remember that morning. It was so cold that if you stepped out of you house, you’d feel your marrow freezing in your bones, immobilizing you and then pushing you deep down into the abyss of hopelessness. Professionally, I was committed to a job that kept me comfortable and well-fed, but my need to draw had never left me. Art was that passionate and persistent lover, who would stalk me all the time and follow me everywhere. I’d have these little secret trysts with art, whenever I had a moment to spare. My notebooks were filled with doodles ready to tattle that the flame of my passion still burned bright for my one true love.

That morning, quite like many other mornings before it, demanded that I perform the chores of my job, without pain, but also without pleasure; with a sense of duty, but without any passion!

As I sipped my tea mechanically, I chanced upon a face in the newspaper. I just picked a pencil and caricatured it to make it funnier. I was drawing a face that could make me smile.

Here’s the face that I drew that morning.

Caricature Sketch of an anxious and worried man - the first caricature.

My first caricature

View the First Post here.

A few squiggles…and a confused yet mocking expression. It would’ve been consigned to the waste-basket where many of its predecessors had gone, but it was meant to change my life, and so it didn’t. My husband saw it – and along with it, he saw my pain.

“Nobody ever sees the drawings you make – why don’t you start a blog where you can scan and post your sketches,” he said.

I tried to wriggle out of it. “I won’t be able to keep it up,” “Nobody would ever visit,” “Who wants to see funny faces,” and many more feeble excuses were made that day.

And yet that evening, we sat down together and created a blog on WordPress – shafali.wordpress.com. At the beginning, it was titled “Shafali’s Caricatures,” then when I began doing cartoons the title expanded to “Shafali’s Caricatures & Cartoons,” and now, because I also do a lot of portraiture work, it’s called “Shafali’s Caricatures, Portraits, and Cartoons” The tag line however has never changed. Drawing has always made me smile, and I think that there’s no point drawing if it doesn’t make you smile 🙂

This was the first header of this blog 🙂

shafali_caricature_header.jpg

Then came this…

celebrity_caricatures_cartoons_shafali_header.jpg

Next was…

shafalis-caricatures-blog-header1.jpg

And now it is:

shafalis-caricatures-blog-header-jul-2014.jpg

 

In the last 6 years, this blog has grown along with my portfolio of works (which began demanding its own space and so I created another blog – of course, again on WordPress,) it has helped me get some very interesting commissions, and more than anything else, it has given me a space where I can present my works, my thoughts, and be myself 🙂 I know I don’t do a lot of blogging stuff right, but I am open to learning and this is why I’ve joined blogging101.

So folks at blogging101, if you are just starting, don’t worry – blogging is like a little garden that you start from scratch…you must care for it and be patient with it. If cared for, it will bloom, that’s certain.

Who I am and why I’m here?

More importantly…why is this post here?

This post is here because I’ve enrolled in Blogging 101 program that will run for three weeks, and this is our first assignment 🙂 I’ve already taken the whimsy in me to task, and she’s promised to stick to the guidelines. I don’t trust her, and I warn you not to trust her either.

The first question is: Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?

Answer: Bipeds are social animals. Why do you think we got up, straightened our limbs, forced our two hinds to carry our whole body weight? To free our hands so that we may use them for shaking other people’s hands. I could’ve kept a private journal, which would have been found by archaeologists in the year 3015; scanned and preserved in a 250 Zettabyte pin-drive – so that some historian could download it into her head and use it to craft time-travel stories. Oddly, that doesn’t appeal to me – I’d rather write, read, and be read, here and now 🙂

The second question (a mere guideline) is: What topics do you think you’ll write about?

Answer: No idea. I end up writing about the strangest things (People trapped inside computers, Atlantis, Tatooine, Politics, Art, Artists, Writers) and I write the strangest stuff (short-stories, parodies, serious commentary on world affairs, biographies of people who inspire/irk me.) I can, however, tell you what sort of images you’ll find here – you’ll see caricatures (people made to look funny with their features pushed, pulled, tweaked, and twisted,) cartoons (you know the stuff,) and portraits.

The third question (and a very important one) is: Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

Answer: Two kinds of people:

1. Personally, Fun-loving people – those who like to see the world through glasses tinted with humor. Who step into your world and brighten it up by their mere presence. They post a “hi” in your comments, and you grow wings 🙂 BTW, most of us fall in this category…if you think you don’t, you’ve just misplaced your humor-tinted glasses.

2. Professionally, prospective clients for my illustration-work. As an artist, I illustrate for magazines, books, and novels; and I also license my images for commercial use. I have another blog where I maintain a portfolio of my works here.

And finally,

If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to accomplish?

1. New Friends for my Heart.
2. New Clients for my Art.

Signing off…

and

going back to “Draw to Smile” 🙂

The Fourth of July – A Happy Time for a Serious Introspection.

A Very Happy Fourth of July to my visitors from the United States.

Fourth of July - Eagle on flag background card for Independence Day of America

 

“My dream is of a place and time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” – Abraham Lincoln

Today, Lincoln’s words ring truer than ever. While Americans celebrate the 257th birthday of the United States – there are still things that must change, and some that must not. As Americans reinterpret their freedoms, new forms of intolerances are born. As Americans take a step forward toward equality of various kinds, individual freedoms are trampled upon. As Americans open their hearts and accept diversity, they let gender-inequality thrive in the land of freedom and opportunities.

The eagle looks skywards and asks – Is this the right direction?

Happy Fourth of July to everyone who loves what America has always stood for – hope, freedom, and opportunity.

Malcolm Gladwell vs. John Paulson – Making sense of a $400 Million donation to Harvard.

I am appalled!

A $400 Million donation to a $30 Billion Institution!!

Gasp!!!

It’s crass.
It’s gaudy.
It’s ugly.

But when Malcolm Gladwell, the author of several non-fiction super-sellers such as The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, did those smart and sarcastic tweets on John Paulson’s donation to Harvard, some low-thinking individuals tried to bring the house down upon his head. (Read: Malcolm Gladwell just went nuts on a Wall Street billionaire’s $400 million donation to Harvard)

Caricature Portrait of Malcolm Gladwell, the Author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and What the Dog Saw.Here are some of his tweets:

Malcolm Gladwell tweets about John Paulson's $400 Million donation to harvard.

First, I’d like to ask the Malcolm-critics:

What’s wrong with Gladwell criticizing the donation?

He’s got all the right in the world to drag Paulson’s name through the mud. After all, even I deserve that $30 Billion more than Harvard does. Why? Because I don’t have a billion, or even a million. I am so much poorer than Harvard – and that makes me more deserving of Paulson’s 400 Million donation.

Twitter has played cupid and made me fall in love with Gladwell who has said what I’ve been saying all along – albeit a bit differently, and a lot more humorously. People who can buy diamonds, shouldn’t buy them for their loved ones; people who have amassed a fortune, shouldn’t leave it their families – why? Because those loved ones are rich too…and hence they aren’t deserving enough – there are enough who are poorer (poverty being a relative concept,) and they must become the heirs to the rich.

There’s a pitfall in my reasoning though and that becomes my first argument in favor of what Paulson did. (Gasp again – I mean, how could he give it away all to Harvard? but I’ll reserve the whining for later…)

Argument 1: It’s my money – so I decide.

Most people are motivated to earn because they feel they have the right to decide how they must dispose their earnings – and most people prefer to spend their money on those who they love or care about. Recall that self-actualization need comes after family and belongingness needs (Abraham Maslow) – and your alma-mater is…well, your “nourishing mother” and hence family. John Paulson admits that he owes his unprecedented success to Harvard – and so he decides to gift “some of it” to his foster mother, who’s already rich no doubt, but who can still use that money to help her other “children” through life. How in the world does this compare with donating for the cause of poverty?

This of course, is one viewpoint.

Argument 2: I’d rather help those who can help others.

Another viewpoint is that – helping the ones who can help others results in greater benefit to mankind. So if Paulson thinks that his alma mater could find a good use for his money – he is actually investing in the future of mankind – and that in itself is an act of philanthropy. If an institution consistently produces billionaires and multimillionaires and they donate a part of their wealth for the poor of the world – the poor get more.

Argument 3: You invest in today, I invest in tomorrow.

For the third argument in Paulson’s defense, I would like to say that who one must donate to (or whether one must donate at all) is a personal choice – and giving money to an educational institution has a far greater impact on humanity than any other kind of donation. True that the impact may not be as immediate as in the case of donating food and health supplies, yet someone has to do it – or in a few centuries from now, we’d all have reverted to growling and snapping at each-other’s heels…we’d be back to living a life centered around fulfilling our basic needs.That would wipe the artists and the writers out of existence. And neither Mr. Gladwell nor I would like that. (Excuse my quick and distorted but inevitable time warp example. I am a caricaturist and I thrive on exaggeration, which brings the imperfection into sharp focus.)

But all said, I am still in love with Malcolm Gladwell – and I defend his right to tweet his thoughts. They are an exact echo of my thoughts, and I thank him for putting them across – because his words are stronger (and far more retweetable) than mine. I too would’ve preferred that John Paulson had directed at least a quarter percent of his donation towards me – the rest could go to poorer folks, along with the donations made by a zillion other billionaires and organizations.

And to top it all…Harvard just doesn’t need that money. The keyword here is “need,” you see? 

115 F, a blistered finger, and feeling blessed.

The middle of an Indian summer isn’t exactly paradise. During the two months of May and June, the fire of hell escapes from the belly of earth and smothers us with a blanket of hot air that scalds the lungs and burns the skin. The afternoon temperature hovers between 110 and 120 F – the computers heat up, and so does my direct-to-screen drawing tablet.

In the middle of all this, I find myself working on an urgent assignment that, as I will later discover, to work from 6 in the morning to 7 in the evening. I wake up, ready to go to work, hoping that I’ll be able to use the air-conditioning for those few hellish hours of the day; and then the unthinkable happens. Right at 5 AM, the power goes off! while the heat hasn’t begun to show its true colors yet, I am devastated!

As I try to introspect and reschedule my work to afternoon, wondering if sending the files to the client in the middle of the night would make any sense; I see a tiny speck of hope. “It’s a planned power-cut of 6 hours,” said the official newspaper reader of the house who is also my organized-to-a-fault much better half.

So I decide to work until the power-backup exhausted itself. No Air-conditioning – aircons are power-hogs and they aren’t plugged-in to the backup. Without the air-conditioning, my Cintiq heats up and starts scorching my fingers. A small selfish part of me keeps praying for the backup to die. It would cut this torture short and give me a temporary respite. It doesn’t happen. The tablet continues to heat up…the air around keeps pace.

The power comes back on 30 minutes earlier than expected. Awesome! A quick breakfast and I am back to work. And then it hits me. The artwork that I was working on was complex and it would take me a very long time to finish it. Especially if I took all those breaks that the Doctor advised. So I do the unthinkable – with my fingers crossed, I take my chances. I decide to work non-stop (except for the loo-breaks) until I am done with my work. I am hopeful that I’d be done by 4 PM. I strike gold – finish the sketch on time – but with an angry red boil on the side of my little finger.

I should’ve been happy that it was done – I should’ve given my tired me a break from work, but I couldn’t. All through the day, I was nagged by the thought that a part of the concept didn’t appear convincing…and I had to handle it somehow. What the client wants is something that you must create, but what your conscience suggests is something that you mustn’t ignore. So I return to my art-mate, sketching furiously – creating an option that would take out the thorn from me side. Providing a possible alternate to something that I feel may potentially harm the client, is my job – or so I think. All that extra work – Not pragmatic? Perhaps…but it leaves me more at peace with myself.

So I work three extra hours and upload the sketches by 7 PM.

Delivered as promised; delivered as it should’ve been 🙂

It made me feel good…but what made me feel blessed was the fact that this morning, I woke up feeling OK, except of course the blistered finger, which reminds me that if these tiny things are beginning to register again, I must be feeling better. I know I haven’t yet healed completely, and by working 13 hours at a stretch, I had taken a chance that I shouldn’t have. And yet…

Right now, I am feeling blessed. Frazzled but blessed.

Feeling blessed - a pen and ink drawing - shafali's art. Artists and Commissions.

Feeling frazzled but blessed!

PS: Need those gloves…pronto – and yet, a delivery deadline met so… despite a blistered finger, feeling blessed 🙂 After all Happiness is…

 

Portrait Art – Hats that Women Wear: Hat No. 1

The hat is an odd accessory. For men, it’s utilitarian. It protects them from the sun – and that’s all that it means to them. For a woman, a hat is a lot more than a sun-screen – it is a fashion-accessory, an art-piece, a status-symbol, and for all these reasons a woman’s hat expands to an incredible size and becomes a weight that must be carried around carefully and sometimes unwillingly.

When I look at women in hats, I think of their heads and what must go within. I begin to wonder if the pictures in these women’s minds were to replace their hats, what kind of image would I see.

Here’s one of those images.

Women Girl Portraits - Face and Hat - Depression - Digital Painting by Shafali

Figuring out the hat isn’t easy, unless you are a woman, or a man who understands women. The clues are in the colors and the imagery of the hat – and I’ve tried to hide them as best as I could – just as a woman hides her woes behind her smile. I know that tomes can be written about the burden that women carry but if a picture is worth a thousand words, every woman should find her story – in this hat or in those that I am yet to paint…because the hats aren’t allowing my imagination any rest – they creep into my dreams and they wake me up at will.

You’ve got a similar hat…but you’d rather not talk about it – would you?

The Caricaturist develops a hobby and goes to the Dark-side…

The folksy-folks aren’t going to like it one bit. The caricaturist they knew so well has gone to the dark-side. The dark-dorks are going to love me for it. They loved me when I drew Ozzy Osbourne and I know they are going to be super-pleased with me when they see the dark child of my artistic labor.

Among other things that I’ve been either working on or trying hard to work on, is developing a hobby. Developing a hobby is easy when you do mundane stuff all through the day and you want a break so you do something colorful and interesting that relaxes you – but when all you ever do is scribble, draw, paint, write, and doodle….you’ve exhausted all that’s colorful – so either you must do something terribly boring for a hobby (Cooking and cleaning?) or you must stretch one of the things that you do to a point where it becomes even more colorful…and then you do it without the pressure of meeting deadlines.   I chose the second – and I painted flowers – then I moved to painting houses…

And the best part of hobby-drawing is – you don’t have to show it to anyone 🙂 So…no links!

Wowie!

PS: I’ve acquired this hobby recently, and like a newly acquired puppy, my hobby needs to be trained – it must understand that I cannot indulge it whenever it fancies – but until I am able to train it…I must give in, so I must return and complete the witch-house that I am painting 🙂