What started as a way to deal with the severe bouts of depression during my late teen days has come a long way now!
Back then, I had to do something to pause my self-doubts and shift my focus off the terrible thoughts that were cruising through my head constantly. Learning the art of painting on glass came as a huge relief. Conceptually, it was not very difficult as it just involved filling in the outline printed on glass with poster colors and metallic powders. That was my first exposure to mindful coloring, only that, brushing with the poster colors on glass were not as easy as coloring with pencil colors on paper. It still helped.
I happened to notice that it took my mind off the depressive thoughts left in the wake of a messy break-up, and, in the process helped me create some very beautiful sheets of glass. The dull glasses with printed outlines seemed to come alive with the help of multitude of colors and sparkle, and even when they looked amateurish, just the act of completing them made me feel content and fulfilled. Knowing some of them ended up being worshiped only made the whole work all the more inspiring. Thus, I found a way to sleep without the help of pills, go through shitty days like it’s the most normal thing to do and most importantly I gained a sense of identity and self-belief which at that time, I thought was long gone.
After a brief hiatus from Art, I got back to it during B School days through making greeting cards from scratch. Being in a new B School and facing a lot of uncertainties, infrastructural challenges and other issues made some of those days emotionally draining and exhausting. Nothing in comparison to the messy break-up, nevertheless it was no fun. That’s when Art came to my rescue again and helped me stay grounded amidst the chaos. I learned that with a little bit of patience and perseverance any Artwork, however small, when completed leaves us with a sense of accomplishment which can wash off any amount of stress and has the miraculous ability to help put things in perspective. And before I knew it, the two years of MBA were done and dusted and I passed out with flying colors, thanks to Art for giving me the much needed sanity during those days of intense pressure.
While in Chennai, after B School, life was back to normal with the lack of unwanted drama (for a change). But since I couldn’t put my creativity to use in the office as much as I would have liked, I was dying to find ways to ensure my creativity doesn’t die of stagnation. That’s when I discovered the art center next door, Life &Art and enrolling for it was the best decision I have ever made in my life. The act of using a wet dump of clay to create beautiful pieces of art requires a ton of patience. When in the concentrated act of scoring, shaping, and rolling the clay, time flies and I was left wondering many times, how did the entire weekend pass by so quickly. Just to set the context, it took two whole days to finish Lord Ganesha, a week for Budha, one full day for the house and several hours for the rest of them.
I learnt Tanjore painting also in the same art center. Don’t even try asking how long it took to finish that one Krishna painting. By the time it was done I promised myself I would never put myself through one such ordeal ever again. It involved a million steps and God level of patience, which I don’t think I can muster one more time.
The finished works from Life & Art center can be found here
Chennai days also taught me that art is not always about painting, craftwork and clay models. I came to realize that art is anything that produces something tangible and beautiful out of seemingly ordinary things. Those days opened my eyes to other forms of art: like the art of public speaking which involves crafting a speech, scratching the whole thing off, writing again, rehearsing and finally on the D Day, performing in front of an audience and receiving a heartfelt applause; the art of putting together common ingredients in the right proportions to create lip-smacking dishes; and the art of written word which when put across rightly and in the right forum, sparks many a connection with the right people. I am glad to have had the eye-opening exposure to the fact that, like with everything that we learn, our knowledge of art however in-depth, barely scratches the surface and there is always something new to learn and experience.
I continued my tryst with art in different forms when in Bangalore as well. I took the clay modeling lessons to another level by coloring the models to make them more appealing and gift-able. Pictures of some of them are below;
The noteworthy one is that of Lord Durga which broke into two when we were shifting houses. The idea of decorating the model with accessories occured when contemplating of ways to hide the crack. What finally ended is this beautifully accessorised Lord Durga complete with a dazzling crown, a subtle albeit chic nose ring and multiple earrings on each ear.
More recently in the US, while aimlessly strolling through the aisles of Walmart, I chanced upon the Craft & Sewing Section and lo and behold I found something that made me stop short and momentarily took me back to the good part of my childhood days. It was nothing groundbreaking, just happened to be an embroidery kit – with a printed cloth, a bunch of colorful threads and a needle. All one is supposed to do is stitch on top of the outline and bingo a work of art is produced. The complicated logistic steps once needed for embroidery are no longer required.
I remember from my childhood days the trouble we had to go through to make embroidery happen. Right from shopping for a suitable cloth, to cutting it to the desired size and dealing with the ugly patches left behind by the carbon paper while marking the outline and then figuring out suitable threads to hide the dark outlines – pursuing embroidery was quite a task. Despite all the trouble, embroidery classes were fun! For someone who was terrorized by exams so much that it scarred most of my childhood (by the way, I still have nightmares of being made to write exams in an eerie silent room) embroidery classes had helped a lot to deal with them. Looking back, it had offered some much needed respite from the constant scare of exams and mid-term tests.
Anyway, given I was thrilled beyond measure about my new possession, I immediately set out to (re)learn the different embroidery stitches and implement them on my new printed cloth which would double as a banner once done. It also helped me deal with my lonely days in Cedar Rapids in a hotel room far away from family and known surroundings. I couldn’t have asked for a better time to spot the embroidery kit and relive some good moments of my childhood and in a way be reminded of home every now and then.
While it’s mostly good, there are two important things everyone needs to know before they embark on an embroidery journey
1. It is more time consuming than you can ever imagine, so do not target to finish the whole thing in one night or one week
2. Always get an embroidery hoop before starting the first stitch– unless you do not mind living with a sore palm, made sore by constantly pulling the cloth to make it taut while stitching on it.
I did not know of these obviously, when I restarted my embroidery! I ended up with a bruised ego for not finishing the work soon enough and a hurt hand, so painful that I used up a whole tube of Volini in under a month. I captured pictures of my progress every week. It’s a different matter that I couldn’t find enough progress made between many consecutive weeks and getting stressed unnecessarily over the same. Yes, it is quite a frustrating process and is extremely time-consuming, but at the moment of completion when you step back to admire your work, you experience a fleeting moment of nirvana. And, at that moment you realize all the frustrations are worth it!
I guess in a way I am addicted to embroidery now, for I did another one too to keep it in my desk to serve as a reminder that no matter what happens and doesn’t happen, “Life is Good” always!
Art not only helped me deal with some really shitty days in my life, it also made the lovely days in my life more lovely. I happened to note that whenever I look back to the happy moments in my life, I recollect those memories are woven around completing some form of artwork or the other. It seems too much of a coincidence now that I look back. Be it dealing with my (exam) terror-filled childhood days, or making final days of my engineering and MBA tolerable, or even making (and continuing to make) the days in Chennai, Bangalore and Cedar Rapids lovely– in all of them Art has either made my days less stressful or more beautiful as the case may be.
I strongly believe Art is present inside every one of us and it doesn’t take much to bring out the artist in us! Unbeknownst to me by using Art as a distraction, I was able to cope with my depression and incidentally “Self Expression Through Art” is one of the tools well-known therapists recommend to their depressed patients to help them find new meaning(s) in their lives. Now you know where to go to if you crave for some solace from constant negative thoughts, or if you are just craving for some peaceful and much needed “me-time”.
To learning and relearning more expressions of art.