Life, Reflection, sketchbook

The days happy in their confusion, the world as it really is, but not quite

A typical week in my life, pretty sure so many millions of women across the world have these exact same days…

I’ve been thinking, I haven’t seen myself or people of my demographic reflected in mainstream media for nearly a decade now. While that frees us up to define who / what we want to be, that’s one reason I keep on documenting my life.

A century later there might be no record of what Indian middle class urban working women did, in all their diversity.

Luckily I’m not the only one – Women at Leisure is a great record, our friend Smriti is a prolific blogger too, and there are probably more such personal documentation out there that I don’t know of.

Good thing that women have always journaled, at least for the past few centuries. It’s probably because they have always been silenced officially and have had to seek out a way to express themselves somewhere.

My own great great grandmother Rasasundari Devi was the first Bengali woman to write her autobiography.

This was at a time, around 1810-1830, when even basic literacy was denied to women in Bengal, so she had to teach herself to read, and after nearly twenty years, to write. She started writing her autobiography in her fifties when her children were grown. Around the same time, social reform in Bengal had barely started in Calcutta, but she lived in a village away from all this, and so was completely self-taught.

With such precedents, we would be throwing away our privilege if we did not use a bit of it to bring about a collective voice for those not represented in the mainstream. I know we can do more, and I’m speaking from my very entitled perspective, but it’s a start. It’s a purpose – to stop whiling away time and channel it towards expression.

Title re-purposed from a poem by Jim Moore, American poet.

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drawing, Life, sketchbook

With our pack of memories slung slack on our backs

This video and the earlier one are how my day-to-day journal drawing takes place. I sit down with my book and try to draw what’s on my mind. Sometimes I start by drawing what’s in front of me – which is why there are so many drawings of Orin eating! At other times I draw the day, how things went, what I listened to, or read. Sometimes my mind is blank and quite often the fear of the empty page threatens to take over.

But the important thing is to show up, and get over that fear, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not living up to your own expectations. And after some time, I find the flow, I start to commune with myself, and joy takes over.

Title from Joy Harjo, via Pome by Matthew Ogle

Looking back, some favorites from the last decade: Doing what you love (2013); Channeling the girls (2013); Life with Picasso, Art (2013)

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art, Books, illustration, Life, List, sketchbook

My best books of 2021

Last year I didn’t read as much as I usually do, what with one thing and another, but I ended up with some good ones. Here are the highlights.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman: Recommended by pacificleo, it was one of my best books of the year.

Voices of Dissent by Romila Thapar: This essay puts today’s responses to resistance in perspective, by charting out the history and evolution of dissent from the vedic times. A worthwhile read, even though the language was quite academic. (If you buy from Seagull, you can choose your version of the cover, designed by the brilliant sunandinibee.)

Among graphic novels, I read some beauties: Japanese Notebooks: A Journey to the Empire of Signs by Igort, The Winter of the Cartoonists by Paco Roca, Hostage by Guy Delisle, Leonard Cohen: On a Wire by Pilippe Girard and some more that I shared in Graphic novels by women.

Last year I also updated my perspective on feminism with We should all be Feminists by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie and Against White Feminism by Rafia Zakaria.

Some other books that I enjoyed were Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing, Daybook by Anne Pruitt and The Pursuit of Art by Martin Gayford.

In fiction The Startup Wife by Tahmina Anam was enjoyable and different, as was Crudo by Olivia Laing and No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.

Our best pastime was drawing with Making Comics by Lynda Barry that Guto and I used throughout the year.

I thought I hadn’t read much, but now I’m getting tired just looking at this list. Oh well, life is short, and my eyes won’t last.

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art, Comic Strip, drawing, illustration, Life, sketchbook

The path to your artistic voice

Where does your artistic voice comes from? It’s your story – and your story could have anything, from memories, obstacles, truths and morals. It’s important to know yourself and listen to yourself – even though it hurts. And also, hours and hours of craft and expression so the craft becomes part of your body and your expression can break through. the journey to finding your voice comes with a lot of risks and failures – but trusting that you will always find the way to your voice.

These are the resources that I’ve found useful – The Artist’s Way, Find Your Artistic Voice (which I may be quoting above), and doing Lynda Barry’s exercises.

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drawing, Life, Reflection, sketchbook

Journaling in the age of social media

A few years ago I was finding it very difficult to be on social media.

I’d always used social media as a kind of journal to some extent, but with different identities crafted for each network, it was no wonder that I was feeling stretched.

I felt a constant struggle of selves, between authenticity, and the carefully crafted brand images everyone seemed to have.

Ultimately I followed Steve Jobs’ strategy when he took over Apple the second time (hahaha) – to cut back and simplify, and focus on the fundamentals.

Curious though – have you felt this way? How did you deal with it?

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Life, sketchbook

From The Garden of Life

Whoever buys a book and opens it fifteen years later…and finds it an absolute gem? The Garden of Life is one such discovery I made a few weeks ago.

It’s beautifully illustrated with original miniature paintings made specially for the book.

The page on hibiscus reminded me of the hair oil, Jabakusum, my mother would apply on our hair as children. Though effective, it was pungent, and we hated going to school with such smelly hair…

Looking back now, I don’t know if Jabakusum is still sold, but the packaging was very memorable, with quite an aspirational illustration, you might agree…

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drawing, Food, Life, sketchbook

A study in skins

I was 8 when I copied my first Cezanne, in the drawing class we used to attend, held every Sunday in the parish hall at the local church. There was no looking back after that. I was mesmerized by the color palettes and the compositions, though I didn’t know all these terms then. I went on to copy the old masters for a decade, running through all of the teacher’s copies of Cezanne, Renoir and Van Gogh prints, and later from my uncle’s fabulous Great Masters’ collection at home. I’m not sure what I learnt, back then, but I became familiar with the artists, their colors and lines and brush strokes.

These onion studies are a far cry from those days. It’s been decades since I attempted any color studies but oh what joy!

Inspired by the this lovely poem by Harryette Mullen:

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