Thursday, December 29, 2011

Life, Death and the Process in between

© The process in Between by Joyita Neerkaje
Sometimes wisdom comes when you least expect it, and sometimes its from a spirited 12 year old kid. My two Nephews are home for the holiday season and are not bored playing on their XBox all day, we adults decided to do a little intervention. A little break from Call of Duty to indulge in the creative.
Ishan showing of his dirty hands
What resulted was a fun filled afternoon, when all we did was play with colors and eat holiday cookies. We chit chatted, pulled each others leg, shared snacks and painted of course! 
After we were done we spoke about what we painted and Goresh named his paintings Life and Death. Life being full of fun and play and shades of colors and death a more monochromatic experience. Then he looked at my detailed pen and ink and said "And those intricacies is the Process in Between". I must say I was a little surprised and a little impressed by this kids insight.
© Life (left) and Death (Right) a Diptych by Goresh Walia
But if you compartmentalize life into smaller sections, thats what a year is. Every year at the stroke of midnight we celebrate and welcome a new year, what we do is the process in between and finally the anticipation and grand finale of the year end only to start of with yet another celebration.
© Goresh showing of his painting
2011 has been an interesting process for me, I have evolved as a person (a tiny bit)

  • I Learnt to handle stress and last minute changes to schedules (Yes! I am an absolute control freak and hate it if things don't go as I want them to).
  • Embraced failure/rejection.
  • Prioritized whats important for me (If you know me you will know how much I try to please everyone in my life).
  • Braved to do something out of my comfort zone.
  • I have grown as an artist (attended art classes, went out for sketching trips with fellow artists, tweaked my creative process, learnt more about art marketing) 
  • Took one more step forward with my inquiry (Learnt to understand the moon cycle and how it effects everything... more importantly Art)
  • Taught myself to be more graceful when someone is giving me feedback (especially Negative).
  • Learnt to appreciate others without getting too competitive, there's enough for everyone.
  • And most importantly... To be Present! 
I am very pleased with where my art is taking me, excited about my latest series of work (More about that in next post) and the things I have learnt about life in general. 

But like art, life is always going to be a work in progress and my new years resolution is to add a few more strokes to continue the process. 

What's yours?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

© Christmas Tree at a friends house
Its that time of the year again... everything is rich red and green and gold. Santas in every mall, the ring of the Salvation army bell in front of the Grocery store, the boot drive at our friendly neighborhood fire station, especial holiday drinks at the coffee shop, curling up every night to watch a feel good movie with a cup of hot chocolate (with marshmallows), the shopping, the wrapping and giving.
Its a season where everyone around is feeling grateful and generous. Its the time to give... give love!
© Wrapped!
A time to celebrate everything that is 'right' in life and leave the 'wrong' in the back burner for a bit. 

This is my favorite time of the year. I love the color, the sparkle, the energy of the entire environment. Everybody is walking with a cheery demeanor, everybody ready to embrace the holiday cheer.I for one is all set to begin the party!

So here's wishing all of my blogging/virtual family a very merry holidays!

And a fantastic New Year! Hope the New year brings with it some awesome life experiences, loads of love, Opportunities for success and quality time with friends and family.

© Something Sparkly
A toast to a year which brings with it everything we wish for and more!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What lies beneath??

© Shinning through
Last week I had my first biking injury! Remember a few posts earlier I was talking about observing and documenting... well let me add a foot note to that: Don't do it while you are riding your bicycle. 
© Reaching for the Sky
New England is beautiful this time of the year, the trees have all shed their leaves and are bare and bald. Its like seeing something as is without any fancy accessory, without any make-up, no add-ons, just the person underneath, all revealed.
I personally have always found this thought very intriguing. 

Life is something like that. I always try to peel out the show, the drama and try to appreciate and love the underlying truth to things. 
And that brings me to asking some central questions... 
How many layers are they?
And when I peel off all the surfaces what do I expect to find? 
And what if I find something I am not willing face?

© Evening glow
So here I am on a trail so engrossed in admiring the beauty around me, taking mental pictures *Click click click* and Kaboom! I crashed! On the bright side, I got some amazing pictures and some thoughts to get me all wired up... new work coming soon!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Zentangle - Simple asanas for the brain.

© My first attempt at Zentangle®
The word 'Zen' originates from the Sanskrit word "dhyana" which means being in a meditative state. And to 'Tangle' is to mix together or intertwine in a confused mass. Zentangle® is a mix of both. Its about finding Zen among all the tangles of life.

I am sure there are a lot of people out there who are in the same boat as me, juggling between all our different roles and responsibilities. It almost makes us feel like a tightrope walker, juggling balls and moving one step at a time, yes? What I have learnt is that the key to maintain balance is to keep moving... slowly and purposefully, shifting your weight from one to another and do it being focused and calm.

© Work of all participating in the workshop

For physical agility and flexibility I do yoga. I get on to the mat and get into the flow shift from one asana to another, from finding my center with 'Tadasana' (mountain pose) to the perfect balance and grace with 'Natarajasana' (dancers pose).  Zentangle® is the exact same exercise for the brain. It helps in shutting down the chatter in the head, pay attention, use hand eye coordination and stay calm. 

Its all about achieving a meditative state through pattern drawing. Simple tangles are combined in an unplanned way which slowly builds and grows into a complicated looking drawing. 

All the participant of the workshop, the youngest was 13 year old!
I was introduced to this style by my artist friends Sandhya Manne and Corina Alvarezdelugo. Their work intrigued me and I decided to give it a shot. So, as soon as I heard that a friend, Carol Dunn, who is also a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) was doing a workshop I had to go. What resulted was one of the most meditative and relaxed afternoon I have had in a while. 

What I realized is that the end product was not too different from my earlier 'Madhubani' inspired work. It almost felt like my creative process came to a full circle. And I intend to stay here just a little bit longer.

Zentangle is so much more than I can talk about in a single post. This post is just about my impressions. If you want to know more about the origin and process of Zentagle, you should visit their website :

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Taking a break from Virtual, To make contact in Real

Wow! It has been over a month since my last post!
Yes, I missed you too.
But sometimes 'The business of art making" needs us to be out and about and doing things.

Along with Chairing Connecticut Women Artists Members show I was also busy getting ready for Open Studio Hartford. My first time doing something of this nature. Fortunately I had my friend and talented artist Laura Gaffke to give me company and encouragement.
We made a great team! While she focussed on getting the aesthetics all perfect, I worked on the logistics to make it work. 

The Poster for the Event
It all started with getting ready for the show with affordable art. So I got down to some planing and some work. A lot of Studio time to create some Monotype, smaller pieces of work, getting prints made of work I have already sold and best of all, holiday cards. Then came the tedious work of inventorying, labeling and pricing everything.

All packed up and ready to go
I think the most challenging job of all was fitting mine and Laura's work, tables, display prop etc in one car. I wish I had taken a picture of the car packed till the roof to share with you all.

© My wall after the set-up was complete
I remember the first time Laura and I went to see our spot she was shocked with the lighting, or should I say the lack of it. But there is no lighting problem that a few extension cords, clamp lamps and duct tape cannot solve. We artists are creative that way. Later walking around to see everyones set-up I was very impressed by the various creative ways used to solve the light problem. And all very cost effective, environment friendly and safe.

© Me in front of my newest series of work and my bin in the background.
The two day event was full of interesting conversation, some amazing and talented new friends, encouragement from old friends who drove up to see me, some sales and a lot of good feedback on my work.

Laura Gaffke and me
Highlight of the event: Our little space in the 2nd floor corner got named the "Happy Corner" by other artists and visitors.

With Laura and Diane, in the Happy Corner
Whats Next? Well loads of things! First I am working on setting up my Etsy Shop so that everyone can see and buy my work, second I am working on getting a shopping cart built in my website to make the life of all my collectors easy, third I am gearing up for the Holiday show at the Artist Cooperative Gallery of Westerly, fourth some matting and framing of work for the Printmakers show at LaGrua Center in Stonington and last but not the least... Road Trip! 

© Postcard of our Holiday Show

Monday, October 10, 2011

To sign or not to sign

© Laying down work to contemplate
"In making art you need to respond authentically, both to your subject matter and to your materials. Art Happens between you and something - a subject, an idea, a technique - and both you and that something need to be free to move" - Art and Fear

For every artist, the key to fulfillment is finding that artistic project that speaks for itself. Part of being successful is being prepared and being organized. The other part is discipline, practice, patience and a great deal of perseverance.

And yes... obsession! That is what keeps us going through the stages of creativity.
So we start with Inspiration or the Inception of an idea, a concept, the subject matter. We plan some of the smaller details, a color palette and organize everything within reach. Then we move to the next step of Conception. We dive in to get the work done, tackle with our fears and bring paint to paper.

The third step is the most interesting of them all, its Contemplation.

As an artist, we are usually our worst critique or may be its a defense mechanism to protect ourselves from harsh comments. Whichever, a painting is never complete until we decide to sign on it. Signing is more a ritualistic act which means that 'we are now ready to share/ show off our baby to the world'.
Believe me, and I don't just talk for myself, all artist go through this step. And we all have a couple pieces at least still on the easel or in sight for us to look and think. Sometimes we even go and add a few more strokes, sometimes we do nothing but look at it and contemplate.

What do we think? A painting is a voice, a story we want to tell the world. The contemplation process is essentially looking at our work and seeing what story it really tells. There has been occasions when I have gessoed right on top of one of these pieces and started all over again. Its normal!

Creativity is a cycle. Its a process we repeat again and again and again, until we master every minute detail of it and learn to deliver with perfection.

And I am not kidding when I say "Being an artist is a lifestyle, not a job!".

Monday, October 3, 2011

Time for action

© A page from Sketch Journal

"The point is that you learn how to make your work by making your work, and a great many of the pieces you make along the way will never stand out as finished art. The best you can do is make art you care about..... and lots of it!" - Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted orland.

Gathering ideas is a big job. As artists we relentlessly spend our days researching, reading and traveling to gather as much inspiration as we can. But thats not where the creative process ends... there is more. Oh yes! Inspiration is just the first step.

© My working table: Summer 2011
The next step is all about rolling up our sleeves and diving in. Its action time! This is the stage which scares me the most... this step is always threatened by expectations. The fact that once you have stained a canvas with paint, you will never be able to take it back to its clean pristine state again. The fear of not being a 100% certain about the end result.

Every piece is part of a learning curve, there is always scope for accidents (some happy). 

So here's what I do. I close my eyes, choose a color and paint in a base coat. A more logically approach of course is to choose a neutral color to do this. But since most of my work have at least 7-8 layers of paint and mediums, it doesn't matter. All it does is help make a mark. (Except for when I work with Water Colors, then I plan every single brush stroke in advance).

The rest is a matter of perseverance. It requires a creative to be hopeful, excited and being their own cheerleader. Because until you get famous only people who care about you, care about your work. 

© Happy Hour_10X14_Water Color on Paper
Artists are famously known for being moody and work only when inspiration hits them. A very romantic notion indeed. In real life however, its like any other profession. To be successful, we toil for hours in our studio. We diligently lock ourselves in gathering what I like to call "Paint Miles". Agreed every single piece of work is not a masterpiece, but every deliberate brush stroke is a step closer to it.

Until then what keeps us going is obsession! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011


The Invitation for the Show

It doesn't happen often that you walk into a gallery and fall in love with the show on display. It happened to me when I visited the Six Summit Gallery this past week to get a sneak view of their upcoming show named "Juxtaposed". 

A small portion of the Juxtaposed Show
Six Summit Gallery is a cute little gallery on 6 Summit Street, in the historic Ivoryton village in CT. Owned, curated and run by Leonardo Feroleto, this gallery represents a variety of artwork with respect to mediums, artists and also price points. To know more visit Website:

My Favorite piece of the show "Architect's Daughter" by Heather Sincavage
Juxtaposed, as the name suggests is a show about placement of random concepts, contrasting concepts, colors, shapes and values next to each other. It was Juried by Alyssa Monks, a New York based artist. I have worked with Alyssa before when she juried a show for Connecticut Women Artist and have been very impressed by her work, personality and process ever since.
Check my earlier blog post Honored to be Honored to read more about it.

Mark you calendar to be there to see this amazing collection of beautiful, skilled and thought provoking works of artists from CT, NY, MA and all around. You will Love it!

When: Between September 29th - November 20th
Where: Six Summit Gallery, 6 Summit Street, Ivoryton CT.
Opening Reception: October 15th 6-11pm or October 16th 12-5 pm.

If you are not from the area, make a day trip out of it. Ivoryton and Essex CT are beautiful tourist destinations and the place looks pretty spectacular in Fall. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Inspiration of Daily Life

© Infinite possibilities awaits on the other side 

"Life is a great and wondrous mystery, and the only thing we know that we have for sure is what is right here right now. Don't miss it." - Leo Buscaglia 

I hope you all had a fun week observing and making mental notes of the world around you. 
Its beautiful, isn't it? Wasn't it fun living with life and walking hand in hand with here and now?

I am high on life, addicted to every single element of it. The plus side, an overdose will not kill me, just enlighten me some more. This love of mine is evident in my work which is inspired by my everyday experiences. 

The most important quotient is People. Sometimes its just a mere observation on posture and activity which can be used later in bits and pieces in landscapes and cityscapes. But sometimes observing them make you think. For example every time I see an old couple walking hand in hand, it instantly gets a smile on my face. I think about their life, their struggles, their love that stood the test of times. 

© Fruit Vendor on the streets of rural India

Seeing is good, but don't let your other senses to fall back. Smell that fresh air, the aroma of spices coming from the nearby restaurant, the fragrance of somebody's perfume... they all usually trigger old memories and feelings in me.

Listen to music , the sounds of nature. Its a known fact that music inspires. The beats  might make you see a rhythm of colors, shapes and patterns or lyrics of a song might strike a chord in your heart. Just allow it to soothe you. 

Unwind, exercise and meditate! I have an entire series of work inspired by my Yoga Practice. I find it to be the best way to focus all my attention towards myself. Feel the air going in and out with each breath, the rhythm of my heart, the warm feeling. 
Its truly inspiring.

Enjoy Nature! After all is there anything more beautiful and intriguing than Mother Nature?

© Sunset at Avery Point, Groton CT

Last but not the least... Imagine! Travel to unseen places, think about other countries, their culture, their beliefs, all the amazing local folklores, their clothes... just close your eyes and go for a trip.

Possibilities are endless, there is something for everyone, observe, admire and            be Inspired!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Good News!

© Face of Tourism: India Series_30X24_Mixed Media on Canvas
This past week has been an exciting and eventful week for me... so had to write in a quick post to share all the good things going on in my life.

The week started with an Art sale! Which is always exciting, to me its the best form of encouragement.

The week continued with further streak of good luck when I was elected as the next Vice-President of Connecticut Women Artists, Inc. Yes, its an honor to hold this post and I am stoked! I look forward to working closely with the other artist of the group to take this wonderful, vibrant organization to new heights. We have a very exciting year planned ahead of us with shows and lots of Artful events. 

Last but not the least, one of my work has been selected to be displayed at the highly esteemed Ocean House at Watch Hill, RI. I have posted a picture of the painting in this blog for all who cannot make it to the actual event. 

I just wanted to thank you all for your support and encouragement and all the good wishes and energy you have been sending my way. 


Monday, September 19, 2011

Embracing Creativity

© View from Panoramic Highway, San Francisco, CA
To create is to simply produce something using imaginative skills.
Often times people say things like "I wish I was creative", "You are either creative or your not" etc..,. The truth is everybody is creative.

The only thing that separates a creative from the others is very simple. The creatives have mastered the art of following through the process of creation and its not a knowledge we are born with but simply a systematic set of steps we have mastered by trial and error. There are popular theories and loads of books written by researchers and psychologists on the topic. However, I have my own version of the process. 

Yes, what I am saying is that an idea for painting doesn't get transpired with some divine intervention, it is a lot of focused preparation, observations, conversations and obsession! 
You got it... the key word is 'Obsession'. 

© Panoramic View_10X14_Water Color on Paper
Inspired by the Photograph to top.

Every artist at some point in their life have fought the fear of a 'Blank White Canvas' and for some, like me, its an ongoing battle. I definitely have a few sketchbooks jotted with ideas, a subject and a palette I love. But the process is not just about Ideas! 

For the lack of time and space for this post lets just talk about my sketchbooks of ideas. 
Where do you think these ideas come from?

That is the first step to the creative process: Preparation. 
This is the 'Not so fun part' of the cycle. It is what I like to call work, but it is necessary.
Most of my paintings are inspired by my life and my surroundings. Which essentially means that I am forever in an alert mode, observing and making mental notes of the smallest of the things I see. The way the trees branch out, the sun set and the changing color palette of nature, the ripples in the river, texture of a tree bark, the way people interact with each other and the list goes on. 

Creative life is a wonderful thing, of the many gifts its bestowed upon me I think the best has been the lesson of being present.

So lets all plan to do a fun exercise for the next week, walk around observe and come back here and share all you have seen. Be present!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


© Compartmentalize_4X4_Acrylic on Canvas
"Compartmentalization began as an architectural theory, Life can also be divided into closed-off sections. Makes everything much simpler." - Dexter. 

Not sure how many of you out there like to watch the very popular show on TV: Dexter. I do!
And have to admit absolutely love it! Its smart, witty and sometimes makes sense.

This particular episode got me thinking about the entire concept of Compartmentalization. 
And what really happens when people say they are compartmentalizing life.
Probably because right now I find myself juggling between a certification exam, working on Art shows and family commitments.

Technically the word means: separating things into isolated categories.
But is it possible to completely segregate all components of life from one another?
If yes, then how do you know which compartment to visit when? 

I like to organize, I am comfortable when the lines are clearly drawn and borders are not threatened and everything is in the place where it should be. It keeps everything separate and clean. To me its a tool to organize co-existence; to be able to be neat and balanced. 

But sometimes the lines go blurred and things get smoothed together. I play different roles, I try to separate and find it almost impossible to do. Just like tiny drops of watercolors that merge into each other when dropped on wet paper isolated sections of my life get smooshed together. As an artist I draw inspiration from my daily life, as an HR professional my art helps me be creative and think out of the box. Wondering if that makes me a messy person. Or if this mess is simply the mortar which binds together the various compartments. The tiny color drops building a colorful pattern and the dirty browns clearly defining the segregation of colors.

My this weeks working table has been all about this thought and my theories. In an attempt to find clearer answer, I divided the process of creating art into smaller components. 
Pics and details in my next post... see you soon!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

In the eyes of the beholder

© Process of Composition_36X18_Mixed Media
In Private Collection
Everybody can paint, but the difference between an artist and somebody who paints is quite simple. For an 'artist' its all about the process, for others it's about the product.

As an abstract artist, I have come across a lot of people who come up to me and say "My 5 year old paints like you"
But isn't that the point! Its liberating to be free of white noise in the head, to be able to shed off the chatter of details and to understand the basic shapes, patterns and their relationship with each other. To be fearless of judgement and be able to have a voice without any inhibition. 

But well, as much as I am writing all this in this post, there have been times when I got irritated with such comments or disappointed by rejection. After all I am a human. And as my good friend and colleague, Ishita Bandyo rightly said in her blog post 'Criticism is easy, Art is difficult':  "It is hard for creative people to be criticized. Most people who are artists have rice-paper thin skins and negativity can erode their confidence to shambles!"

While technically an artist is trying to appease a collectors sense of aesthetics, he/she is actually just appeasing themselves, their view and their soul. Even a photo realistic artist who is painting a photographic image is truly just juxtaposition-ing various objects they observe and voicing an opinion by arranging these observations in a certain pattern. 
There is always a story!

So here are a few quick questions you need to ask before you pass a critic, hopefully this will help you understand the process a little better.

1. What do you first Notice when you look at the work? And why?
2. What is the over all visual effect or mood of the work?
3. What are the colors you see? What do they invoke within you?
4. Why do you think the artist made these specific artistic decision?
5. Why did the artist create this art work?

And most important, when you visit an art show, take the time to read the Artist statement. 

Believe me, even though abstract art seems to be easy, there is a lot of time, effort, thought, few sketches, couple of drafts that goes in before the piece takes its form as a finished product. But that is a discussion for another post.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writing my gratitude

Evergreen Beauty_16X20_Acrylic on Canvas
In private collection
I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the things I am grateful for. 
It all triggered after reading a blog post by a friend and a blogger I religiously follow Donna Iona Drozda, in her blog she wrote :  

 "The Third Quarter phase began Sunday, August 21 in the early evening (EST) and extends through Thursday, August 25 in the early afternoon. At the time of the Third Quarter Phase we can breathe in grace and gratitude. We can invest this time in remembering how miraculous it is to come to this thanksgiving place each month (moon)"

Its actually a tougher question to ask myself than I had anticipated. At first I had a long list of things. But then I thought some more and the thing I am most grateful for is my "Amazing Parents". Countless time I took them for granted and every time they gave me some more love. As I began writing, the post took a poetic turn, it probably does not rhyme, not well edited and is not the best out there... But its sincere and straight from the heart.

I am Grateful...
For the unconditional love my mother has for me,
For every time I said 'I hate you', she always replied 'I love you too.. dearly'.
Every time I let go of her, she let me fly
But always watched over me
Every time I was sick, she was there
Loving me, nursing me
For guiding me, understanding me
Encouraging me to find the true me.
Every time I saw her flaw, she only saw the good in me

I see you now, I know you now
You know I love you dearly.
I probably don't say it very often.
But, Mom your the best!
And I will always thank the universe who gave you to me.

© J Neerkaje

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Blockbuster Dream of a Self Taught Artist

In the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Will Smith talks to his son about his dreams. 
He says: "Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something. Not even me. All right? You got a dream? You gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period."
© Treading in unknown waters, one baby step at a time.
My big dream: to be a successful artist.

In the recent past I have had varied conversation with friends and colleagues about Art, the process of creating art and an art degree. I have been advised by a few to seriously consider going back to school to get a degree in art and have been rejected by galleries for the pure lack of a degree, NOT talent.

I have seen the work of so many self taught artists which are compelling, sincere and full of raw charm that can rival that of a trained artist any day. A self-taught artist also has a voice, has a lifetime of learning to learn and share.

I guess my question here is: Do you need to have a formal degree to call yourself an Artist?
Is our passion for art limited to just paint and canvas and technique or is it about the artist, their stories and the connection we all share?

Does an average art collector buy a piece of art because its made by a famous artist or because it speaks to him/her?

Why does a successful HR professional suddenly find her muse and begin painting?
What gives this self taught artist the courage and motivation to express herself visually, without the sanction of a formal education and without fear of reproach?

And if our ancestors, who painted on cave walls let formal education get in their way of expression, would we really be having this discussion now?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tree of Life

© Tree of Life_24X12_Mixed Media
In Private Collection

Its not unusual for an artist to have ups and downs in their creativity. 
Have you ever been was through a "Creative Blank" phase and was scared that you are losing your artistic ability? I have and I did what I do best.. I decided to take advantage of the lovely warm weather and go for a walk.. to get some fresh air and loads of fresh ideas.

© From a hike to Gillette Fort State Park
In these walks, what I call fondly as 'Inspiration walks', I am always drawn towards the trees. 
The formation of each tree bending, branching out gracefully like a poised movement of a ballet dancer, the roots reaching down deep into the center of the earth gathering its essence.
The lifetime full of changes with seasons, learning and constantly adopting and re-inventing.
In perfect harmony with the world around.
Sheltering and providing home, giving without expectations of returns and sturdy. 

© From my Back Yard
Trees, to me are the true symbol of life, the circle of life and the symbiotic relationship shared between two lives. Its just one more way that nature truly inspires us to endorse the amazingness it has to offer and the lessons it has to teach.
I think trees are one of the most interesting thing to paint/draw/sketch.
The different kind of textures, the pure play of light and shadow and the negative spaces it forms with its spread. 
© Safe Haven_7X5_Linoleum Print
Its no wonder that a lot of art across continents is inspired by them. 
Next time when you are out taking a walk... just take notice of them, really look how the branches spread, how the roots rise above the ground and dive right back in, the lushness of the green and post a comment to this post to let me know how you felt.
Would love to hear all your thoughts.

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