Landscape


Landscape
Landscape

Using a landscape image from the internet as reference, and under the guidance of our teacher, I painted this landscape.
The paint reflected a little light, so I uploaded a little larger image, than the ones I usually upload, to compensate for the lack of clarity. As a result, it is likely that moire patterns will appear on the image.

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From Grandfather, With Love


My grandfather was the eldest in his family. We were his youngest grandchildren. The age difference between us is almost nine decades!

My grandfather’s life was very eventful. It could be said, that he lead a full life. He was a professor in the Burmese University, joined the Army during the world war, served in the foreign service thereafter. Then he helped establish one of the leading heart institutes of the country, where he worked till his last breath.

He had several hobbies. He occasionally undertook carpentry, and even tried his hand at bee-keeping. But the one hobby that lasted the longest, was photography.

None of his photographs prior to the second world war survived – the family had to flee Burma (modern Myanmar), and several possessions were lost.

All his photographs from 1945 onwards, were carefully pasted in a book – thick black pages bound together, with beautiful photographs chronicling the life of his children. He developed most of his photographs, and took great pains arranging them, putting captions for almost all the photographs. The album itself is showing signs of ageing, and rarely comes out of the cupboard.

A few weeks back, we visited our aunt. During our visit, she asked my brother to extend his palm. “I’ve been wanting to give this to you for a long time. It might be useful to you. It belonged to your grandfather,” she said.

Opening the case of the cylindrical pouch, like a child unwrapping his gift, my brother’s face lit up with excitement, when he realised, what it was, that he had inherited.

It was my grandfather’s tripod. It looks absolutely new. No one knows how old it is, but it is, at the very least, sixty five years old! My grandfather’s love for photography was inherited by my father, who bought a range-finder – spending almost a month’s salary on it.

And now, that passion for photography has passed down to my brother.

Related links:
Free Bird – A post I wrote in memory of my grandmother
R. Karthik’s Flickr Photostream

The Brooch


The Brooch
The Brooch

This is a painting of the brooch we bought as souvenirs in Kohima. Instead of photographing it, I thought I would try sketching it, but on the spur of the moment, decided to give it a shot with paint – my first attempt at painting still life.

And There Was A Painting


Fish out of water
Fish out of water

We travelled for three days on the crowded train – there were more than two hundred of us, and only a hundred confirmed tickets. A bus journey from Dimapur brought us to the campus of Nagaland University, located atop the hills, in Kohima. Exhausted after the journey, we didn’t bother about blankets, as we fell into deep slumber in the dormitory.

During our stay, we discovered the ‘passion fruit’. We devoured them like wild beasts. We had never heard of them, and we knew that we may never taste them ever again. By the time we left, the locals had made a handsome profit!

The nearby hangar served as the venue for talks and concerts. The music and dance performances mesmerised the large audience, and the atmosphere quite literally came alive when clouds filled the ‘auditorium’!

We had the privilege of attending workshops conducted by national artists. And the highlight of the entire trip was the ‘classical overnight’. Beginning after dinner, continuing till dawn, the all-night programme held us in a state of trance. We didn’t sleep during the concert, and yet, ‘woke up’ feeling refreshed, without a hint of exhaustion.

We spent the last day in the main town, visiting the War cemetery, and the Museum.

Due to the insurgent outfits operating throughout the North-Eastern Region, we were forbidden to travel at night. That meant that we had to reach Dimapur before sunset. The last night of our stay was spent on the railway platform at Dimapur Railway station.

We had to board the early morning train, which would stop only for fifteen minutes. We collected all the luggage in one place, and hauled every bit of luggage inside the train as fast as we could, irrespective of whose bag it was. After a chaotic hour or so, we found out that along with our baggage, two large boxes of RDX had found their way into the train. The train we boarded for our return journey was even more crowded than the one in which we went. The mood in the train was dull.

That didn’t last long, however, when we tasted the freshly cut pineapples that were being served by vendors in the train. Juicy and soft, they simply melted in the mouth, and there was not a hint of fibre – you could be forgiven for thinking that they were mangoes. The exotic produce of the north-east, it seemed didn’t end with the passion fruit!

Eventually, we bade farewell to all the people with whom we had shared our entire experience. People who were strangers only a few days back, and people whom we would probably never meet again.

It is unlikely we would ever be a part of such a trip, ever again.

We didn’t carry a camera to capture the great, and the not-so-great moments (and there were plenty of both!) Our stock of passion fruits lasted no more than a few days, and the trip became a distant memory, within just a few months. Looking back, it all seems like a dream. The details of the trip are blurry, and there is little record of us ever having been there. I never wrote anything about it, to remind me of the time.

However, we do have some proof of it being real – a pair of brooches that we bought as souvenirs.

And a painting.

This painting was made in Kohima. I had attended the workshop being conducted by Padma Shree Anjolie Ela Menon. Perhaps there was something in the air that made me draw this – I had never before drawn something abstract, and even after the trip, I have not dared to venture into that territory.

Upon returning, I discovered, to my horror, that the acrylic paint had actually not dried up, and the foam plate I had placed over the canvas to ‘protect’ it, got stuck, and ruined the painting.

Several months passed, and I never fixed it. After over four years, I finally painted over the bad patches. While the scars are still visible, the picture is more presentable.

A Whimsical Post


24 June 2012

After spending an evening at my aunt’s house, I thought I had an idea for another blog post. I didn’t know what I would actually write – I had just one line.

When we were about to leave, my aunt asked me if I needed a diary. “I have a plain unruled diary. If you want, you can take it”, she offered. It was kept on a coffee table near a wall. I picked it up, and flipped through it. It had a quotation on each page, and there were no lines. I kept it back.

“I do need a diary, but I need it for taking down class notes. I wouldn’t want to use such a good diary for that!”

“Oh you want one for taking notes? I have just the thing, then!”

I came away holding a thick, black spiral bound book. After reaching home, I placed it over the cupboard. And I just stared at it. What would I do with this?

The pages had such a smooth texture. There was absolutely nothing written inside. No days, or months, or quotations, or fancy designs. Just thin lines. To add to it, there were colour coded tabs running along the sides. It was so beautiful.

It was not meant to be filled with random notes that I wouldn’t bother to look at. It was not supposed to be sold to the scrap dealer once the pages were filled. It was meant to be preserved.

I was scared to open it. To write on it. What if I made a mistake? I had three such books, lying unused, inside the cup board, for the exact same reason!

After spending hours wondering what to do, I told myself, “That’s enough! It is just a bunch of pages. Break out of it!”

I picked up my black pen, and started writing. I didn’t bother about the subject. I wanted to just write. To feel the pen slide on the paper, for no reason. I wrote random sentences. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. It seemed as if water was trying to burst through a small hole in a dam.

What I wrote, didn’t matter. But the sight of the beautiful paper, being written on, thrilled me!

After several minutes of writing, I forced myself to stop.

I had filled a few pages with words, I would not even bother to read again. But it looked beautiful!

Assignments!


I recently submitted my assignments for internal assessment (3D modelling, texturing and lighting). Here are the renders – the wire-frame, ambient occlusion, beauty pass, and composite. They have all been made using real images as references. The chocolate box took the most effort, and is, by far, the most original of the lot. Hope you enjoy!

We Created A Monster!


After months of procrastination, we present to you, our creation. That the topic for this week’s photo challenge happens to be ‘create’, is a lucky coincidence!

The Project:

A 2d animated short film, being made for a student’s competition, on behalf of our institute.

The Concept:

Story Board Extract
Thumbnail story board extract
Story Board Extract
An extract from the story board

Theft of content discourages the the creators of original content. This, in turn, hinders creativity, and ultimately, when creation stops, everything comes to an end.

While this is rather extreme, we used it as the basis for creating our protagonist.

The Protagonist:

Concept Character
In search of our spirit

A formless spirit. People cannot see it, but it watches our every action. It has always existed in some form, but over the years it has grown exponentially. We needed a simple, yet mean creature. After unsuccessfully creating several rather cuddly creatures, we finally managed to locate our spirit.

The Plan:

Putting ideas to paper
Putting ideas to paper

We began with a simple story, with simple line art for presentation. It eventually grew more complicated, with more supplementary characters, and more complicated animation.

The Resources:

A lab – which we shared with five other students, two computers and a pen – tablet.

For the next three months, this room would virtually become our second home. We entered early morning and left late in the evenings – including Sundays. The windows were covered with black paper. The air-conditioning, at times, prevented us from suffocating, and at times made us shiver. The pen tablet came close to becoming my best friend!

The Human Resources:

We searched, and searched, and searched. We knew we needed a character artist. We found none. Eventually, we decided to handle it ourselves.

The Implementation:

Trying out animation
Trying out animation – manually, and digitally

To create one second of an animated clip, we needed 24 frames. A software can make things move smoothly and blend frames, saving a lot of work. But it has its limitations. There are times, when everything must be done manually. For our story, every bit of animation involved manually creating unique frames.

Back when early Walt-Disney animations began appearing, there was no software which could blend and create frames. There was no copy and paste. The artists created each of the frames from scratch. The colours couldn’t be picked from a digital colour palette. They had to mix paints and inks for every frame. Yet they managed to create believable, realistic characters, which had a consistent form, and colour across every frame!

Where We Messed Up:

Testing style
Trying to establish a style
Becoming a little complex
Still trying to establish a style… Becoming a little complex

During the process, we fought. A lot – with each other and with our own teachers. We argued about the best approach towards solving issues. We lost a lot of time, just trying to figure out the style for the film – something that should actually have been a part of the planning stage. While we did do a lot of planning, our paper work was inadequate. It threw our schedule so far away, that our mentors, peers, and even we, began to lose hope of it even being completed. We lacked the foresight, and the skills which, we realised, were essential for taking on a project of this magnitude.

It seemed like our project had been set up to fail.

The Controversy:

Piracy is a sensitive issue, and a grey area. After all, sales of recorded music hardly account for an artist’s income. They benefit distributors. And artists earn millions from live concerts anyway. The concept seemed irrelevant for the digital age. The internet makes the cost of producing and distributing intellectual property almost negligible. A viral video on a video-sharing site is all it takes to get famous!

Ironically, we used music with creative commons licenses for our film on piracy!

At home, debates and arguments surrounding our project became a regular feature. My spending long hours working, only added to the gloomy atmosphere in the house.

The Final Touches:

With just about 3 weeks left, tension and tempers were rising. We asked Google for help. We analysed footage from videos, and animated clips. We searched for music, and shot footage of ourselves for reference. Desperate to finish what we started, we used videos and images as templates, and traced over them!

With just a couple of days left for the deadline, we had a few animations still left to do, and some of the backgrounds were incomplete. We had not compiled our work even once to check if all the pieces fit the puzzle. In a last ditch effort, we worked for 24 hours straight to complete the little bits. There were some glaring mistakes. But we ignored them. Ultimately, we rendered it – just in time for submission.

The title for our project was decided on the very last day!

Final shot
Final shot – The pen tablet came close to becoming my best friend

The Aftermath:

The consequences of the marathon effort on my health were explained in detail in my previous post.

After nearly six months, we blew the dust from the project to fix some of the major glitches. During the rendering, our ghost showed up in a few frames, where we did not put it, and disappeared from some other frames. What can I say… It was being true to its nature.

The Perfect Monster:

The debate surrounding the definition of what constitutes piracy sparked a debate around our house, and divided the family. Several issues popped up during the planning and animation stage, which put some wonderful friendships in jeopardy. Our ghost didn’t help either. It distorted in unusual ways while animating, which caused a lot of head ache. It skipped frames on rendering, and appeared in places where it clearly didn’t exist. It ensured that we spent months, cooked up inside a sun-proofed room. While we brought packed lunch with us, it did not prevent us from eating out. Our health took a severe beating.

It seemed, that we had created the perfect monster.

The Other Side:

While we were blaming our creation for our troubles, the spirit was subtly doing its part to put us in our place! Working on the project, was a huge learning curve. We bit way more than we could chew, and that made us push our limits. We learnt the importance of pre-production, the importance of paper-work, the limitations of our skills, tricks to overcome it, the long road that lay ahead of us before we could even think about calling ourselves animators, how to work in a team (even if it was just the two of us), and to believe in ourselves, and our vision. Most importantly, we realised that nothing can ever be more important than our health.

We had to use every trick in the book to reel in the spirit which was running amok. I’m happy to report, that it has been caught and placed inside a container. It is on display as a video on Youtube. Its still not perfect, but considering that there were only the two of us, working on our very first animated clip, and practically the whole world betting against it, I think it turned out fine 🙂

Please visit the blog of my partner-in-crime, guilty of creating the monster!

The Disclaimer:

We admit we used a lot of references from the internet world. We have tried our best to give credit to our sources. Further, this project was not made for any commercial purposes. It was just an idea, which we feel extremely proud to be a part of, and hope you too enjoy it!

Injecting sunshine?


Three hectic months. Two people*. One project.**

We stumbled, fumbled, messed up, and from being way behind schedule, made a last minute dash towards the finish line. The hangover from our project took a month to get over, and our hard work paid off in the form of a third place award for 2D animation.

Things were beginning to return to normal – I was catching up on my assignments, and my team member picked up a job.

But that’s when it all really started.

A shooting pain went down the left side of my lower back. It must have been a sprain I picked up while running to catch a bus last winter. It had troubled me a lot at the time, but had disappeared in the summer. I went out for a walk, and the pain subsided. I began walking regularly, expecting that it would heal over time.

Then, on a cold December morning, the pain increased exponentially. I mustered up courage to take a walk with my mother. Holding on to her shoulder, I limped at a snail’s pace. Ten minutes later, she said, “That’s enough – we’re going to the doctor”.

Four days, three blood tests, two X-rays, one diagnosis. Blood sugar – normal. Blood count – normal. Bones, muscles – no issues detected. Vitamin D3 – negligible!

The doctor wasn’t amused. Heavy dosage of vitamin supplements daily, extra heavy dosage weekly, and rather painful injections monthly. And of course, a long lecture on the importance of Vitamin D3, and sunshine. Once word got out, in came a flurry of forwarded emails, and anecdotes about lots of people suffering from the same condition.

‘Oh! These days everyone seems to having that. You must spend time outdoors, you know.’

‘My colleague fell down and broke her bone’

‘I wanted to change my work timings so that I could spend some time outdoors. My boss wasn’t happy. He told me to go get injections. His wife is doing that’

The television and newspaper joined the party, and began informing me about it too.

I learnt a lot… The deficiency of this vitamin is apparently linked to obesity, diabetes, and even cancer. It also inhibits the body from fixing itself. Perhaps that was the reason I never recovered properly from injuries. Although Vitamin supplements are available, the one produced naturally is the best.

Sunlight is required to assimilate Vitamin D. And so it is dubbed the ‘sunshine vitamin’. As it turns out, the phrase has a figurative meaning too. Being exposed to the sun also affects our mood.

Living in the tropical region, I always wondered why sunny days were ‘happy’, and the month of May was considered ‘merry’. Personally, I prefer a cloudy day. But science has confirmed that sunshine makes us happy, and a lack of it, gloomy and irritable.

I began spending more time in the local park. One day, after walking, I stepped off the jogging track, and took off my shoes. The damp grass tickled my feet, and invited me to stay a little longer. I obliged by lingering on… I lay down on my back and looked up at the sky, and I wondered, when was the last time I felt this good…

Our lifestyles have changed drastically over the past few decades. And it is leading to an increasingly large number of problems. We live in an artificially created environment, barely move our limbs, and are married to gadgets.

We are not computers, we were created by nature. That is how we have survived for so long on this planet, and no matter how far science progresses, we cannot create a sun, and definitely cannot inject sunshine.

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* The People : my partner-in-crime – together, we’re guilty of creating a monster! He’s recently started blogging.

**The Project : I’d like to think the project was responsible for several of my problems, but it probably just aggravated something that has existed for years. I’ll explain all about it in the next post!

Related Post – Interview In A Dungeon

Patterns On The Floor


As the sun prepares to visit this part of the world, a few of its rays have jumped ahead, trying to take a peak at our front entrance. While most of the city is either asleep, or busy getting ready to take on the day’s work, my mother opens the door and thoroughly cleans the floor with water. She then opens a small box and picks up a pinch of the white powder that it contains.

The Hrydayakamalam
The Hrydayakamalam

She rolls the powder between her thumb and index finger and makes a series of dots. They are perfectly arranged in a symmetrical pattern – drawn with pin-point accuracy. She picks up more powder and with a steady hand, draws several even lines – some connecting the dots, others, encircling them.

Ever since I can remember, my mother has performed this fascinating ritual, every single day, without fail.

Traditional dots at the Surajkund crafts fair
Traditional dots at the Surajkund crafts fair

Earlier, the only source of obtaining the kolam podi*, was relatives who visited us. Our trips to Chennai would be incomplete without buying the white stone powder, which she used for making the designs. Now the powder is available more readily. Kolams are not common in Delhi. Here, elaborate ‘rangolis‘** are made with colourful powders and flowers, that too only on Diwali, or special occasions. Some other migrants like us make the kolams with a more long lasting wet ‘paint’ made using rice flour. Others use ready-made stickers.

Traditional Kolam made with lines and filled with red stone color
Traditional Kolam made with lines and filled with red stone colour

Visitors often ignore the kolam at the entrance and sometimes step over them. Some mischief makers deliberately destroy them. And on several occasions, the sweeper sweeps them away. It infuriates my mother… “Kolams are swept away only when the family is in mourning… Wiping it away is a sin”, she would shout. But nothing has ever deterred my mother from starting afresh the next morning.

In Chennai, though, kolams are found everywhere – at the entrance of every house, temples, and even public buildings. Friday belongs to Devi, and so, the kolams are extra special on these days. On festive occasions, the red stone comes out of the shelf. The stone is dipped in a little water and the kolam is painted with a deep red colour.

A small temple in a hospital (Chennai)
Kolam in a hospital (Chennai)

Celebrations like marriages present a much larger canvas for the ladies. Rice flour kolams are prepared the night before the auspicious event, and, covering large areas, they are grander than what one can imagine. That they will be hidden beneath the holy flame, does not matter to the artists.

As the years have rolled by, my mother’s kolams have evolved. They are no longer limited to the strict geometrical patterns. Nor are the materials restricted to the traditional ones. The kolams are now more abstract, and created spontaneously. On special occasions, she adds more colour – something that she has adopted from the North Indian rangolis. There are times when she is unable to make it early in the morning, but even today, she does not allow anyone to step out of the house before the kolam is drawn. And we don’t mind – the entire process takes just a few minutes – the years of practice have made it second nature to her.

The neighbour's kolam (Chennai)
The neighbour’s kolam (Chennai)

It is this art form, and my mother’s interpretations and designs, that inspired me to create something of my own. Based on the traditional paisley motif – the  ‘aam‘, or the ‘mangai‘***, it is a tribute to the millions of women who practice traditional art forms as part of their daily lives. It is a tribute to the art form that encourages everybody to become an artist.

But above all, it is a tribute to my mother – who expresses her creativity and skill through patterns on the floor every single day, only to sweep it away the next morning.

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* Podi – powder
** Rangoli – Hindi term designs made on the floor.
*** aam – Hindi for mango
mangai – Tamil for unripe mango

Interview In A Dungeon


A few weeks back, I went for an interview conducted by a super secret unidentified company. Since I am still studying, and will probably want a job soon, I shall refrain from mentioning the name or location of the company.

The interview was short – just a few questions like why I would want to work there, and whether I knew what kind of work was being done. The rest of the day was spent in giving the ‘test’ – and it was really enjoyable. I was given a storyboard, character and background graphics and voice over. I had to string them together into an animated clip.

The office was located in an obscure location – locating it was an adventure by itself. And when I entered it, I took an instant dislike to it. Although it looked large from the outside, it seemed to lack space inside. The windows were covered with black paper and there were millions of lights on the roof. This got me thinking, why were the windows constructed at all, if they had to be covered up. And what’s the point of covering up natural light, and installing so many artificial lights?

But despite my initial dislike, I loved the work that they did. As I mentioned earlier, I actually enjoyed what was supposed to be a test!

I requested a lunch break, and was readily given one. There was a small grocery shop just next to the office and I enquired whether there was any place where I could get a decent meal. The lady said, well, if you have some packed lunch, you can eat with me… otherwise, there isn’t any such place around here. I accepted her offer of company and bought whatever she could offer by way of food. I casually enquired about the company and her opinion of the people who worked there. Satisfied with her response, and the ‘meal’ of juice and cake, I resumed my test.

My interviewer shared her concerns regarding the fact that I lived far off and the working hours were not fixed. But I had a much bigger concern.

Working for long hours in an environment that provides absolutely no natural light is disastrous. After personally experiencing consequences of working in such an environment for just three months, I can testify that the employees’ health will deteriorate without them even knowing about it.*

I understand that this is the case practically everywhere on the planet, and for some technical reasons, shutting out real light and living in an artificially created environment is justified. But an organisation should allow (or maybe force) employees to leave the office premises and enjoy some fresh air and good old sunshine.

If the lovely lady and gentleman who interviewed me are reading this, I hope you will still welcome me to your office, should I come begging for a job (I love the work!). But I also hope you will consider that the poor work environment is perhaps the reason why you have such a high turnover in the first place.

Healthy employees = Happy employees = Low turnover + Better Output

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* I will leave the explanation for another post!