Viral Sin – A Crime Thriller that’s an Honest Commentary on Human Nature

Viral Sin is not just an entertaining crime thriller but also an honest commentary on human nature.

https://www.amazon.in/dp/B088X52QN7

Viral Sin has a 4.8 star rating on Amazon.in. If you read eBooks, do check it out – it might change your views on a lot of things. Among other things, the book is an honest commentary on human nature and how each among us has the potential of being a victor in this fight against the virus.

It is a crime-thriller, and its primary purpose is to entertain; however, the reason it got written was because the authro needed to express what she felt, and what could otherwise have impacted her own sanity during the lockdown.

From the reviews at https://www.amazon.in/product-reviews/B088X52QN7


* Gripping and cleverly woven!


* A quick read but will remain with you for a long time.


* I would like to recommend this to all those people who are afraid of facing the situation. It will definitely bring positivity to their lives.


*The theme and the plot depicts something which is beyond the thought.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited account, the download is Free.

Here’s the Instagram post I made this morning…

View this post on Instagram

From the reviews at https://www.amazon.in/product-reviews/B088X52QN7 * Gripping and cleverly woven! * A quick read but will remain with you for a long time. * I would like to recommend this to all those people who are afraid of facing the situation. It will definitely bring positivity to their lives. *The theme and the plot depicts something which is beyond the thought. If you have a Kindle Unlimited account, the download is Free. If you like the cover art, heart it to make the illustrator smile. Thank you. #crimethrillers #crimefiction #quarantinestories #indianfiction #indianbooks #indianbookstagrammar #indianauthors #kindleunlimited #kindleunlimitedbooks #freebooks #lockdownbooks #lightreading #indianwriters #indianwritersofinstagram #indiannovels #fridayreading #friday #readinggoals #readersofindia #indianreaders #indianfiction #lockdownreading #viralsin

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If you read it, do leave your comments either at your Amazon store or at Goodreads.

Thank you…

The Unreliable Book of Art History – Chapter 2: The Point of Origin – the Lion Man.

First, I must save my hide, so please bear with the disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER

These posts aren’t meant to be educational – they merely present the view of an artist. In fact, a specific artist, that’s yours truly. This is why I request you to consider these posts as a work of fiction inspired by historical facts. I am not sure if I can keep the historical facts correct to the t, and I take no responsibility if you fail an exam because you thought you could use my posts to study.

Remember that I am not an art historian, an art critic, or even an art teacher. I am an artist – and in this book (if it becomes one,) I’ll be presenting the history of art from my own tainted and distorted viewpoint.

The Upper Paleolithic Period (or the time between 50K to 10K years ago,) was the time when invading homo sapiens had gotten rid of the neanderthals in Europe and they were doing new stuff all the time. This is why between 1900 and 1950, archaeologists found art done by them. This art was created in material that was easily available at that time, namely animal bones, mammoth tusks, wall-paintings and so on.

Two Important Artworks of the Upper Paleolithic Period:

In my opinion two extremely important works that have been discovered by archaeologists and that may be classified as art are:
The Lion Man (made of mammoth tusk)
The Willendorf Venus (made of limestone colored with red ochre)

An Extra, Non-arty Nugget:

And two important inventions of this time are:
• Sewing and shoes (Check out a 50,000 year old needle.)
• Flutes made of bones (Check out some paleolithic flutes.)

We aren’t really interested in the inventions (except when they led to art,) so quite selfishly, we’ll only speak about the Lion Man and the Willendorf Venus.

Putting the Lion Man First (and why?)

Lion Man: The Beginning of Human Art

While everyone else may disagree with me, I think that the Lion Man or the Lowenmensch figurine, which stands a little more than a foot tall, is the first example of human art. In my opinion, the timeline of art history begins with the Lion Man.

Here’s the Lion Man

The loewenmensch figurine - or the Lion Man - carved from Mammoth Tusk - Upper Paleolithic

The Lion Man: Image Credit:  Thilo Parg / Wikimedia CommonsLicense: CC BY-SA 3.0.

But why is Lion Man Art?

My reasons are simple: The Lowenmensch figurine is an example of human imagination (thus creativity) used to create a visual expression, that has both aesthetic and emotional appeal. The cave paintings are depiction of what was “seen” – and so there isn’t enough imagination, individual or collective, that would make me see them as art.

(Check out Chapter 1 for the definition of art and art history.)

And Why not the zillion Venuses? Why aren’t they art?

Note: Before the term Venus floods your mind with images from renaissance paintings and you start imagining slim and beautiful young women with streaming blonde hair – Read about the Paleolithic Venuses so that you and I are on the same page.

Weren’t the Venuses a Product of Human Imagination?

As an artist I believe that the Venuses (including the Willendorf Venus) weren’t a product of imagination either – mostly because the way their bodies are sculpted, you need to have seen the effect of gravity on a corpulent human body to be able to sculpt that. The Venus of Hohle fels is more from imagination, I think – and yet, it could also be an inability to reproduce the real effect of corpulence, aging, and gravity, merely due to artistic incompetence.

But Willendorf Venus? Isn’t it art? Everyone says it is.

Here’s the Willendorf Venus:

Venus of Willendorf - Paleolithic Art - Figurine of Limestone

Venus of Willendorf: Image Credit: Oke / CC BY-SA

Ok. Let me call Willendorf Venus art but for another reason. I’ll call it art because of its apparent uselessness.  Remember Oscar Wilde had once said: “All Art is Useless.” Since we love to take quotes of famous men and women as gospel truth, we can use Oscar Wilde’s statement to confirm that Willendorf Venus is indeed art.

Caricature Portrait Reflection Picture of Oscar Wilde Dorian Gray Alfred Douglas and Caliban.

“All art is useless.” – Oscar Wilde

The Willendorf Venus depicts an unusual skill of execution – and for the reasons we call Portraiture art – we can (and should) also call the Willendorf Venus a piece of art.

So is the Lion Man a better example of pre-historic art than the Willendorf Venus?

Yes, I believe it is. The head of Lion placed on the body of a man is clearly symbolic and it requires certain degree of imagination fueled by thought. That the lions and the sabers could bring a mammoth down, is something that would make humans revere the Lion and want to be “like” a lion, and from that emanates the creativity that makes such a figurine possible.

This is why for me, dear readers, the art history timeline starts at the Lion Man – and this is why this book and its contents are quite unreliable.

The next chapter (Chapter 3) will tell us the story of the Lion Man’s creation.

Read “Chapter 1: Defining Art History and Answering the Question of Time” here.

 

The Unreliable Book of Art History – Chapter 1: Defining Art History and Answering the Question of Time.

As promised a few posts earlier, I’m here with my first post on History of Art.

I believe I must begin by disclaiming all that I’ll be writing in these history posts.

DISCLAIMER

These posts aren’t meant to be educational – they merely present the view of an artist. In fact, a specific artist, that’s yours truly. This is why I request you to consider these posts as a work of fiction inspired by historical facts. I am not sure if I can keep the historical facts correct to the t, and I take no responsibility if you fail an exam because you thought you could use my posts to study.

Remember that I am not an art historian, an art critic, or even an art teacher. I am an artist – and in this book (if it becomes one,) I’ll be presenting the history of art, as an artist.

With that out of our way, let me begin by cobbling together a workable definition of Art History.

First, let us define Art and History separately.

1. ART:

Let us begin by understanding Art.

Art is a creative visual expression that is aesthetically or emotionally appealing.

This definition is quite clear if we understand the essence of the term creative.

CREATIVE:

The term Creative means original and/or imaginative.

So now can rewrite the definition of ART as:

Art is an original/imaginative visual expression that is aesthetically or emotionally appealing.

Let us now review the term History.

2. HISTORY:

History is defined as the study of the past events.

Now putting together a workable definition of ART HISTORY is quite easy.

1 + 2 = ART + HISTORY:

Thus,

Art History is the study of the past of aesthetically or emotionally appealing visual expression that is original or imaginative.

Now equipped with this definition, we can figure out art in our own imaginative way. Instead of focusing on the years (and the complex methodology of presenting those years) and the details of the objects and paintings found (the dimensions, the provenance, and so on…) we will quietly try to slip into the skin of the artist and feel the creation of that art work.

But before we begin, we must get some terminology right.

Tackling the Question of Time:

Let us say, you encounter “c. 35 ka” in my posts. Now what could that mean?

Note: If you are shaking your head with confusion write large upon your face, you aren’t alone.

Here’s what this cryptic term means:

“c.” is circa (used for “approximately” – often it’s difficult to be exact for the time before humans had invented the calendar and before being historian wasn’t in vogue.)

And

“ka” is kilo-annum or a thousand years,

so “c. 35 ka” would translate to “approximately 35 thousand years ago.”

Super!

Another Note: c. 5 ka back, in Ancient Egypt, “ka” meant the soul.

Once in a while, you’ll also encounter the term BP, which means “Before Present.” However, the present in this case isn’t right now, but 1950. We’ll stick to ka because when you are dealing with circa in thousands, a few tens of years here and there don’t matter.

Caricature/Cartoon of Ajit Ninan – The Great Indian Cartoonist.

——————–Reposting from 2011———————-

(The Original Post with its Comments can be read here.)

Presenting Ajit Ninan, the Indian Cartoonist who breaks all established standards of quality in cartooning.

Caricature, Cartoon, Portrait, Sketch, or Drawing of Ajit Ninan, the Great Indian Cartoonist (Times of India.)

I foraged the web to ferret out some information on Ajit Ninan, but returned empty-handed. I don’t know when he celebrates his birthday, I don’t really know a lot about his early life, and except for a few details, I know nothing about his professional life.

So what does the Caricaturist do when faced with a blank page?

She closes her eyes and lets her thoughts travel into the past, where she sees a young boy with a dimpled smile, who would become the Ajit Ninan whose drawings tell her that there are people who refuse to kill their skill – come what may.

Here’s the story of this little boy, who became one of the two Indian Cartoonists who’ve made me experience both pride and joy in equal measures.

The Caricaturist concocts a story:

Leave the Roses and Embrace the Thorns

He loved the afternoons. Hyderabadi afternoons were scathingly hot during this time of the year but the heat didn’t deter him from enjoying them. He’d walk back from school with his friends, feeling under the hot glare of the Sun on his brow, his arms, and his spindly legs only half covered by the shorts of his school uniform; but he always looked forward to the afternoons. They were his to do whatever his heart desired. Deep inside he felt that whatever he might end up doing all his life – these afternoons would remain etched in his memories forever.

This was one of those unforgettable afternoons. Ajit had returned from school, and after a quick snack of Idiyappam that his mother had made for him, he was now lying on his stomach, with his feet up in the air – letting the coolness of the marble floor seep into his body. His sketchbook lay open in front of him and propped upon his left elbow, he drew in it feverishly. He had wanted to finish the drawing of that toy car before his father arrived home from work. He looked over his shoulder to check the clock in the living room. It was past four already!

He returned to his drawing, and then drew away to look at the whole picture. What should he do with wheel? Should it be a little bigger? Would it look funnier if he made it bigger…a lot bigger than the other one?

Thoughts swirled about in his mind, blocking everything else…reducing the sounds around him to an unrecognizable medley – the slight hum of his mother’s voice in the kitchen, the distant din of the vendors in the street, even the creaking sound of the door opening…

So when he heard his name being called in his father’s loud but stern voice, Ajit almost jumped out of his skin. The drawing pencil shot out of his hand and landed under his table that was set near the window, and his sketchbook lay open on the floor – the proof of his being a wayward son.

“What are you doing?”
“Nothing, Father.”
“Doesn’t look like nothing to me,” his father took a step forward. Ajit shrunk away. He wished he had listened to his intuition, but then his father never came home early. What was different today? And then it clicked. His parents had to attend a wedding today! While Ajit’s revved-up mind was busy figuring out all this, his father had picked up the sketchbook.

Ajit held the edge of the table to steady himself. This was going to be one of those days.

“You made all these?” His father asked.
Isn’t it obvious? It’s my sketchbook, isn’t it? Ajit thought.
“Yes, Father,” he said.
“You think that these scribblings would get you a job?”
“…
“You think that I am spending on your education, so that you could become a painter?”
“…
“How many marks did you get in Math last year?”
“…
“How many? I am asking you a question. Answer it.”
“45,” quaked Ajit.
“45. 45 out of 100! How you’ll ever make it into Engineering is beyond me.”

“Tell me. How will you ever become an engineer, if you go on neglecting Math for these…these…” his father struggled to find the right word.
“Drawings?” Ajit couldn’t stop himself from supplying the word, but regretting it immediately after.
“Drawings. Yes. You are good at making these – and this skill will help you a lot when you study engineering. These tractors, these jeeps, these pumps…” he continued as he flipped through Ajit’s sketchbook, while Ajit waited for the tirade to end.

It ended, as always, when his mother intervened. Oh, how he loved her. She was the only one in the whole family, who truly supported his love for drawing – but even she fretted about his future. If only he could prove them wrong.

Later that evening, as Ajit sat at his table near the window, absently trying to resolve those improper fractions into proper fractions, random pieces of conversation floated in from his parents’ bedroom.

“He takes after you…all these feminine habits.”
“He takes after both of us.”
“I never got 45 in Math.”
“But he’s as stubborn as you are.”
“I am telling you…he’s got this stupid thing for drawing! I am telling you, I don’t want him writing letters to the black sheep of our family.”
“I don’t think he writes to him.”
“I don’t know. Who knows anything about what that boy does? You have to ask him.”

Ajit turned his attention to his notebook. Those fractions kept changing into cartoon characters. Why? Didn’t 2 look almost like a serpent and the number 8…he found himself doodling two meshing gears into the 8! The “black sheep” of the family. That had to be his uncle Abu Abraham. He worked for this American Publication called the Guardian, but he was shortly returning to India. Abu’s atheism and the way he thumbed his nose at traditions had ensured his symbolic ouster from the family.

His whole body tensed up in anticipation as he waited for them to leave. Ajit’s parents were going out for a Punjabi wedding, which meant that they’d not return until late in night. He could now look forward to many hours of unadulterated drawing pleasure.

Ajit Ninan’s Nonexistent Biography

I couldn’t find his biography, so I tried to glean whatever information I could from a variety of sources, especially from this post by Abhijit Bhaduri.

Here’s the sum total of my learning.

Ajit Ninan was born in Hyderabad in 1955. His parents were from Kerala though. Ajit studied at Hyderabad Public School where he manipulated his way into the library, so that he could go through the Cartoons in magazines. When he was young, he prefered to draw mechanical drawings, which I presume, must’ve made his father believe that his son wanted to become and engineer when he grew up. Fortunately Ninan wasn’t good at Math (I say fortunately, because had he been good at it, he’d have ended up becoming an engineer; which would mean that India would’ve lost one of its few great cartoonists,)so he studied political science, and became a political cartoonist.

Ninan published in first cartoon in Shankar’s Weekly, a magazine that his equally illustrious uncle Abu Abraham also drew for.

Ninan’s Inspirations include Mario Miranda, James Thurber, and Arnold Roth (he used to spend his precious out-of-class-in-the-library hours poring over the drawings of JT and AR.) Ajit Ninan worked with India Today as a Cartoonist and an Illustrator. He then moved to The Indian Express. He currently works with The Times of India as their Group Art Consultant.

Here are some interesting links for you to follow.

What this caricaturist has in common with the Great Ninan?

Believe it or not, I have the exact same lamp on my table that Ninan has on his. I had bought it 15 years ago. I wanted to buy another of the same kind, but failed 😦

Caricature: Johnny Depp as Tonto – Pen and Ink Drawing – Lock down Creativity.

At the outset, I’ve not watched The Lone Ranger and it’s not for want of trying. Honestly, it’s a tough movie to watch, so it doesn’t surprise me that it won the Golden Raspberry  Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel award and Johnny Depp was nominated for the worst actor award too.

I’ll begin with my expression of Tonto 🙂 (click the image for a bigger view.)

Tonto of the Lone Ranger - Caricature in Pen and Ink of Johnny Depp's character.

Pen and Ink Rendering of Tonto – Caricature Drawing – 9″x12″ Strathmore Acid Free Paper.

So who’s this Tonto?

In the movie The Lone Ranger, Tonto is the Lone Ranger’s companion and the story’s narrator. If you are interested in western movies and haven’t watched The Lone Ranger, which was a box-office flop, you can read the plot here.

Dead Birds as head-dresses have been around

Dead Birds as Head-dresses have been there in tribes around the world. In a tribe in Kenya, certain rituals require that dead-birds are strung to the head-dresses of the young boys who’ve killed them, in some American Indian tribes, dead birds (including crows and eagles) were worn on the head – and there was a spiritual significance of it.

Tonto’s look & the “I am Crow” painting

Tonto’s look is attributed to a painting “I am Crow” by Artist Kirby Sattler.  Please visit the link to view the painting – and you’ll simply love it. Honestly, I loved Kirby Sattler’s rendering a lot more than the look of Tonto, but then the character of Tonto isn’t that of a serious mature man – it is that of a follower and a slightly funny narrator.

About the dead bird being live in my caricature:

I love them alive. I like to believe that the subject of Kirby Sattler’s “I am crow” communicated with the birds at a spiritual level – and felt them to a point where he felt that he was one of them. When I had sketched Bette Midler as Winifred “Winnie” Sanderson, she too had a live crow on her head.

caricature, cartoon, black and white sketch portrait of Bette Midler as Winnie Sanderson, the witch of Hocus Pocusx

Caption in reference to her recent tweet (May 16, 2013) about the IRS Raid on the Tea Party office.

A diversion to Game of Thrones

Incidentally, I was also reminded of Bran Stark “is” a three-eyed raven – and who can fly about by transporting his spirit into the crow. Since I wasn’t too keen on Bran Stark (mostly because his face reminded me of a real-live witch,) so I drew someone else – a  Mr. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister – my top fav among the GoT characters. Here’s he for you.

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

Knowledge and Cunning are my most lethal weapons!

Tonto and the live crow of my caricature

In my part-caricature of Tonto, Tonto is in disagreement with the bird. While the bird has seen more and traveled farther than Tonto, Tonto being human suffers from the I-know-best syndrome. Thus, the bird and Tonto are forever arguing.

Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow & Tonto obviously don’t see eye-to-eye.

Why?

Here’s the answer. Don’t you think Jack Sparrow looks rather peachy when compared to Tonto?

Caricature, Cartoon, Color-portrait of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow (with his two mice) in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow – Actual Print Size of the Image: 12 inches x 12 inches at 300 dpi.

I hope you liked my rendering of Tonto and enjoyed this post.
More later 🙂

Lock down, Art, Writing, and Stuff.

It’s about a month and half since we’ve been in lock down and the only saving grace, the only way to connect with the world, for me has been the Internet. Since we had moved the house just a few days before the lock down, there’s still no TV, and of course, there’s been no going out either.

I’ve been focusing, losing focus, refocusing – and attempting to stay as productive as I can, which means I’ve been writing, drawing, and painting.

I’ll be sharing my caricatures, portraits, and other drawings here. I intend to do a series of pen and ink portraits on nose-rings (check the first one in the series here.) Other than that I’ll be making some Art History posts that I might later collate into a small book. I believe that though there are a lot of books on Art History, none of them are written by artists. An artist’s viewpoint differs from a critic’s or an academician’s in that an artist would try to get under the skin of an artist of the past and try to see a painting from his/her perspective. You’ll know what i mean after I’ve written the first few posts 🙂

Right now, leaving you with an artist who lives in my heart.

A caricature, cartoon, sketch, portrait of the great artist leonardo da vinci who was also a sculptor, an inventor, and a writer.

Monalisa’s Creator – Leonardo da Vinci.

Until soon then!

And until then…Draw to Smile!

When The COVID 19 Lockdown Ends and Life Returns to Normal…

When Life Returns to Normal,

This morning, I read an article on life returning to normal in Wuhan. Nothing in those pictures appear normal to me and if this is going to be the new normal, I believe that we as the human race would change forever.

There shall be New Don’ts,

Don’t talk (how will people fall in love? On chats and texts?) don’t move in groups (how would Indians get married?) don’t talk while eating (romantic dinners, business dinners, Christmas dinners – how will we celebrate?)

And New Dos,

The list of don’ts is long but list of dos is longer. Take temperature – go green, orange, red. Get the app – go green, orange, red. Wash your hands. Worry yourself sick and then when you get a fever, go green, orange, red.

And we will Change Fundamentally,

Honestly, we are going to change in a very fundamental way. For instance, inviting people into our houses may remain an anathema for a long time to come. Don’t come – let us talk on Skype of Facetime. We’ll save money and time both. Super!

We will become a Collection of new Attributes

We can’t go out, so we’ll go in, as The Times of India’s Speaking Tree feature so kindly pointed out today. We will become more spiritual (I am not sure if I understand that term,) more “ikulkhure” (a term that my Mom used to use, which broadly means: in love with ourselves and abhor the company of others,) more virtually savvy (check out my return to blogging and fbing,) more unsocial – and all this, brace yourselves, will make us more like Generation Z Isn’t that awesome? We would be the new Benjamin Buttons of the world.

And find a New Tangent of Normalcy!

So you see, when life returns to normal…we’d have forgotten our previous normal and we’d be flying off a new tangent of normalcy.

Amen!

 

Where are they?

The caricaturist, the writer, and the artist?

  • I haven’t seen the caricaturist for a while. The boat she was on, capsized. She clung to the sides while the waves lashed out on the boat and flung her aside. Last I saw her, she was bobbing up and down on the violent seas…a ghost, a speck, a point…and then nothing.
  • I have been meeting the writer off and on. The humorist, she told me, is dead – the romanticist thrown in a dark dungeon of her own mind, only the realist continues to grapple with the truth, writing stories that don’t end.
  • The artist is alive – feeding her emotions, stoking her expressions, painting her canvasses – loading them with truth.

When and if the roles will ever change again, I haven’t a clue.

But if the past is any indication – the caricaturist doesn’t die, the writer keeps transforming, and the artist usually is the glue that keeps the three together.

Until December then…

Edvard Munch and The Attraction of Doom.

Edvard Munch‘s works have begun to mesmerize me. I can’t imagine how a man could exist in such darkness all his life. I’ve experienced darkness – at least twice in my life, and yet during these cold dark-spells, I’ve found some warmth from random flames flickering and glowing in my heart. Through these spells my loneliness had been complete like Munch’s, but for me these spells had a finite beginning and a finite end. Munch’s loneliness resulting from his early losses of his mom and sister, the demons of his father’s illness, the apparition that influenced him through his life – Hans Jæger, and his ferocious need to spill his anguish upon the canvas – they have come together to produce such nerve-jangling works of art that the viewer cannot help but feel the anxiety seep out of the paintings into your mind and soul.

I find myself wishing for the violence of Munch’s brush, the vein that fed the colors of his fevered imagination into his paintings – I know that for me, the pain will dull and eventually pass; I also know that I don’t exist in complete darkness like he did, and that for me this is temporal even temporary – I realize that I cannot stop seeing beauty and love and ambition and success in sudden flashes – these flashes pick me up and ready me for another go at life – unlike Munch.

Perhaps this is why Munch captures my imagination so completely. Despite his dark colors, the opposites of mine; I look at his works and wonder about the man and the artist. The artist, I understand. The need to express what he felt, that I understand. But the man – I don’t. And then I also ask myself the question whether I want to.

“From my rotting body,
flowers shall grow
and I am in them
and that is eternity.”
-Edvard Munch

Hello 2019!

With 2018 having turned out the way it did, “Hello 2019” appears to be a pretty optimistic greeting, so if your brows are arching up in inquiry, do desist 🙂

Anyway, the long and short of 2018 was that I ended up with a few interesting commissions and managed to submit one of my science-fiction novellas to a humongous slush-pile that has only reduced to half its original size in the last six months. This obviously means that 2019 begins with piles of undone stuff and miles that must be run before I can catch up.

Like any logical and organized mind, when faced with such challenges, my mind too powers up and starts sorting, sequencing, prioritizing, and scheduling tasks, and this blog appears in block-capitals on my to-do list. This year, on the caricaturing/cartooning front, I hope to accomplish the following two things.

  1. Make at least one post a week.
  2. Complete the cartooning book and self-publish on Amazon.

I need to do some fiction writing (a science-fiction novella awaits completion, a fantasy novella awaits its transformation into a novel…and so on,) and come up with a couple of important training programs. This should keep me occupied during 2019, and if I can accomplish it all, mark me down as a true ocean-dweller from Atlantis.

Oh, and Atlantis…reminds me of Aquaman, a movie I watched recently. I loved the imagery, the visualization, the rendering of the water-effects, the forever young Nicole Kidman with her cute little nose that refuses to get any bigger with age…

 

Caricature of Hollywood Celebrity Nicole Kidman, her nose, and two critical bloodhounds.

Looks aren’t everything…especially with the Bloodhounds!

I loved everything about it, except its flat storyline and flatter hero – whose name I can’t remember (but with Google’s help I did. He is Jason Momoa.) I know he played the role of Khal Drogo in the Game of Thrones series, but that is all that I remember of him. He fits the desert, he’d probably fit the swamps, but not the clean blue-green waters of Atlantis.

No.

Rethinking, reflecting…

Still no.

But yes, Game of Thrones reminds me of another gentleman, who I once sketched because he is one of the most interesting characters in the series –Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. (IMHO.)

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

Knowledge and Cunning are my most lethal weapons!

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 🙂

 

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.