Happy Art Play Day

Recounting the experience of my first ever art stall …

Sing Together: painting
Sing Together

It is that boy’s eyes. That is the main reason why I am writing this post.

It was a wonderful day. Truly a blessing for me. An experience of directly reaching out and connecting with so many people via art, via the art stall I put up at the Diwali Dhamaka (a fun fest) in Manipal this weekend. At the stall, I was selling some of my paintings and also had all the paraphernelia ready for people to come and make a painting themselves.

Time and again I am pulled back to the memories and snapshots of those facial expressions of so many people and it fills me with so much gratitude and a sense of fulfillment. I feel amazed: “connecting with people in such a way is possible?!” Well yes, it is possible. It happened girl.

There was this small girl, 6/8 yrs or so, beautiful face, enticing smile. She kept hovering around my stall. Someone asked me finally, “Is she your daughter?” I said, “No, she is my admirer.”, and her permanent sweet smile got even brighter broader. She had been waiting for me to finish painting the pizza box side that I would give her for free to use as a bookmark.


A young man – a pharmacy college student here at the university. He was so enamored. He stood there and pondered long at the wares I had available. When he finally sat down to paint one himself, he pondered over that for long, along with his lady friend. I quipped a bit with this guy with a tip, “don’t apply your head so much” and later shared another painting tip with him too late, “backgrounds first, water first, coconut tree later.” That he was having a go at it with childlike enthusiasm despite being very clueless about it was so fantastic. Most adults do not do that. I realized later, I should have been gentle with him as I was with the children, rather than mocking joking.

I learned first-hand from a boy the impact of holding the paintbrush from far even when painting on a tiny canvas – and his mother had whispered to me that he does not know painting!

A lady admired the art on display and spoke of how she loves painting, has tons of art material at home but can only do copies. That is a struggle I have seen many adults have. Their technique is great, they can make beautiful paintings, but only copies. I told her to go home today and let her hand move any which way it wanted. She seemed inspired by my suggestions and said so too. I hope she tries.

There were many many wonderful expressions and human connections, saved in my heart. Each one precious and beautiful. I want to share each one with you, but will come now to those boy’s eyes. It is that boy’s eyes. That is the main reason why I am writing this post.

A small boy, again, maybe 6 8 10 years old. In school uniform, wearing glasses. Probably the first child I have seen here wearing glasses here in Udupi-Manipal, for that feature stands out in my memory, apart from his eyes. There was something troubled about it, his eyes. He came again and again and admired the stall, asked me how I paint like this (to which I wish I had an answer that would have soothed him and brought a happy smile to his face).

Phoenix: painting

He came again and said “I have come to watch you paint.” I offered several times to him, “would you like to paint?”, he shook his head. After my nth asking, he said, “some other time.”. There was something very adult about the way he said “some other time”. It was sad.

He came again with his elder sister, a smartphone and a request expressed by his sister and not himself, even though he had been talking to me so far.

“He wants to take photos of the paintings.”

I said sure, and he took some photos of some, individually.

Whatever it was that was touching him so intensely, I hope and pray it finds self-expression.

That sounds like a sombre boy and encounter, but the whole day was a very happy art play day. Several dreams and wishes fulfilled: to sell my paintings, to share a “Art Play Place” with people, to earn some money after a hiatus of some 2.5 years.

Facebook status: feeling blessed. 🙂

Moon Shower: painting
Moon Shower

Art Stall Manipal 2014 Vani Murarka

a painter’s thoughts

His style always intrigued me. One day I ended up sending an email of appreciation. An email conversation ensued. Roger Akesson, a Swedish painter, sharing his thoughts on how he approaches his art.

Sometimes when I have spent hours on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter looking for after-dinner entertainment and still do not feel satisfied, I turn to Daily Paintworks. There, I find the quiet soulful entertainment of looking at a handful of assorted paintings in a tastefully designed simple website.

As I visit Daily Paintworks often, I have started recognizing certain painters and their signature styles. One such painter is Roger Akesson. Here are some of his paintings that I like:

Flower Abstraction 71
Bird’s nest abstraction 38
Forest Exploration 12

This is the link to his website/blog.

I find his style intriguing. “What is the ‘logic’ behind his technique?”, I wondered. How does he figure out what brush strokes to put where? Click on the images and see their full-size versions – to enjoy them more and to get an idea of what I mean.

One day I ended up sending an email of appreciation to him. An email conversation ensued which I rather enjoyed. I felt like sharing it with you. So here we are, with Roger’s permission.

Me: I have always been a silent admirer of your unique style – with this Forest Exploration you have surpassed yourself many fold! Sending a basket full of appreciation your way …

Thank you for the basket and I am glad you like my artwork.
I aim to pursue my own style and it is so nice to get feedback like this.

“Forest exploration 12” isn’t perfect, none of my paintings are, and that is no goal in itself, but I like it a lot myself too. I try to push my limits, learn and grow as an artist. Thanks again.

Me: I have always wondered – just how do you know that you can put a stroke here or there and still not mess with the basic subject. Even with your simpler ones like of a flower. Of course it is a language that you have developed. 🙂

All my artwork is a process that I do mess up at times, the key is to know when to stop and to balance different sizes of brush strokes, different kind of brush strokes.
I go with the flow and instinct, trying to see what the painting need, what I want with it etc.
I do want my paintings to give impact, just “being” is not good enough.

I think my way of painting is a way to enhance the object, make it pop, stand out, but as you say, it is a language I have developed. =)
I go more or less abstract and more or less impact (full effect or work with depth), the fun part is the process, it is a journey.

I hope I did make some sense! =)

Yes you did make sense. 🙂

“to balance different sizes of brush strokes”
aah nice!

“I think my way of painting is a way to enhance the object, make it pop, stand out”
yes, it does have that effect.

What you said: “the fun part is the process, it is a journey” is so true. The journey of every painting, everything that an artist goes through, is a thing which remains with the artist alone. People just get the end result. None of the richness of that journey. Though of course the painting starts a whole new journey with its audience because the way each person receives it, is that person’s very own.

Yes, it is a fun journey (sometimes frustrating though), and I hope that I can surprise on some level. Artists that are too predictable and I am sure they know how the painting will look like all the way, is not my cup of tea. What is the point?

I stay true to my style of painting, but try to mix things up, not getting caught up in ways to do things. Keep it fresh!

Thanks. It is very helpful and encouraging to know that you approach your painting in this manner – keeping the destination loose, not tightly defined.

But please tell me – did you first teach yourself how to paint in the more traditional nice correct manner before journeying with painting in this manner? I hear many a times about the arts (be it painting, music, poetry whatever) – learn the system and rigor first – learn to do it “right” first – learn the rules, then you can break them. Did you take that route?

I don’t think that one have to learn classical painting today, but there is things that you have to show/learn, composition, values, colors, shapes, proportions etc.
I did have some basic training/education when I was in my twenties (2 year art school), but I think I wasn’t mature enough to take advantage of that time. After that I didn’t pursue art, had some short artistic periods with long time between (up to several years). I produced paintings, didn’t create or pushed my limits. I knew what a painting would look like before I started.

Three years ago I took a decision to give art a real chance, and I have pushed and learned a lot during this time. I don’t think I have ever wanted to paint realism. I think one shall be true to ones character and use it in ones art. To stand out one has to be unique, to be able to add something to the conversation.

I don’t know all the rules, but I think I can tell if something works or not, but it is also a matter of taste, right?

Thank you so so much for sharing your journey and thoughts with me so beautifully. I really enjoyed reading it and felt very grateful for the conversation and connection and all that you have shared with me in the process.

Thank you once again Roger, for sharing your perspective so beautifully.

florence nightingale: an inspiration for art

In my last post, I shared with you this painting of mine and said that it took shape by itself as I let my hand move any which ways it felt like.

Its a rather unusual shape for a tree, isn’t it? As it took shape, I realized it was a sub-conscious inspiration from Florence Nightingale.

How so?

Florence Nightingale was one of the pioneers of Data Visualization – of presenting statistics as images to make a point emphatically. She collected meticulous data on the cause of soldiers’ death during the Crimean War and created this visualization below. This was way back in 1854! Blue indicates death due to preventable causes, mainly lack of hygiene. Red indicates death due to wounds in war. Black indicates other causes such as accidents.

This image taken from GuideStar International’s Blog.

Thus via this data visualization she clearly showed that the majority of the deaths that were occurring seemingly due to war were actually totally preventable by practice of better hygiene. This made a persuasive impact on the British government of that time. It laid the foundation of incorporating hygiene as an intrinsic policy in hospitals. Here is a lovely short video on this topic, which tells us more about this somewhat less known aspect of Florence Nightingale.


The painting above was made during the days when I was a student of Data Visualization at the university. Regarded as a classic and pioneering example of the efficacy of data visualization, this image of Florence Nightingale’s work came up often in stuff that I read and talks that I attended. Not surprising that it meandered into a painting one day.

So what is the point of this post? It is this.

The way art takes shape when I just let it flow – at times it feels divine. The myriad ways in which what I see and encounter in life has an impact on me is fascinating. The impact is many a times not in a manner and direction that one would conventionally expect. That itself makes life so much more richer.

~ vani murarka

The Vocal Tribe Of Trees

When I paint or draw I mostly just let my hand move any which way it wishes to go. It is a discovery for me to see what is emerging. That is what happened with this painting too.

Once this painting was done, it seemed to me as if the tree, as a representative of the World-Wide Tribe of Trees is calling out and saying, “Hear me too! Hear me too!”

Trees are very very vocal. Only, their language is the language of silence.

Sitting quietly beside trees, one can’t miss their banter. Listening to them intently and softly with your eyes, is so so … There. There is no word for it. 🙂

I love listening to trees. It nourishes my soul.

Listening to the language of trees takes me to a different world. A world that is also very real and exists everywhere; outside me and inside me. A world which in its silence, holds profound comfort and wisdom.

Listen, listen, O World. Listen to The Trees!

~ vani murarka

Of Languages, Animals and the Kitchen

a light-hearted take on the visual character of programming languages …

One of the things that I like about computer programming is to simply just look at the code. To see just what it looks like visually …

a light-hearted take on the visual character of programming languages …

One of the things that I like about computer programming is to simply just look at the code. To see just what it looks like visually. No, I am not talking of software visualization, though I enjoy that too.

When I started programming, every once in a while I used to pause and just see the code, simply for its visual appeal. It was text composed of the same characters that I had learnt since childhood, but looked so different. I did not think of it like that then. Now while writing, I realize that that might be one of the logical sources of my fascination.

As I discovered programming I wanted to share this wonderful new discovery with others in my life. When I showed my working program to them, I used to want to show the code too. It was so amazing! See, this is what results in this kind of a screen and functionality. It was like seeing the beautiful intricate inner arteries of a body. What an incredible transformation if you considered what the source and result looked like.

It took no time to notice that people were not interested in inner arteries. The text was too weird to them and they failed to see the fascinating visual beauty of the code. Possibly, seeing the same characters they knew for years looking so foreign was too unsettling. After all, it is not like seeing Spanish for example. The same letters but the words do not make sense. Yet, the words still look like words and the sentences still look like sentences. That is not how it is when looking at a computer program code.

The way different programming languages look visually, makes me liken them to animals. Their visual look itself lends a character to them and evokes a certain kind of unique feeling-environment when working in a particular programming language.

In my first job in the computing world, my first project assignment was as a maintenance and documentation person in a COBOL project. I spent the whole day looking at screens that looked like this.

COBOL code sample. Image source: Jeff Whelpley’s Tech Blog

The whole screen almost completely filled with text. Everything in caps. Aligned vertically. There was no color-coding in those days. Bright green screen, white text, that’s it. It looked so different from C/C++, which was the main language I had learnt in training.

As I looked at the COBOL screen day after day it seemed like an elephant to me. The heavy (caps) text vertically aligned seemed like the thick legs of the elephant. It seemed so excessively verbose too. The whole program felt visually heavy, like an elephant.

Looking at C instead was such a stark contrast. So breezy and airy with lots and lots of “whitespace”. The “{“s and “;”s here and there looked like beautiful feathers. The indentations of “if-else”s, “for”s and “while”s seemed like dance steps. C/C++ looked like a peacock to me.

c code
C code sample. This code is a token in honor of Dennis Ritchie, the father of the C programming language, written upon his death. Sorry, I lost the image source!

Good old Assembly Language looks like a snake with its narrow vertical structure. Just the long long list of opcodes and operands. And just as tricky as a cobra mind you!

assembly language code
Assembly Language code sample. Image source: here

These days all my programming time is spent working in Javascript. So what does Javascript look like to me?

Well when one first starts with Javascript one uses it to do nifty little things on a webpage. Invariably the Javascript code is mixed with HTML. That frankly does not look anything elegant to me. COBOL, even with its heavy look had its own kind of elegance to it. If I had to choose an animal for a code file comprising of Javascript and HTML mixed together, I would choose an ostrich. But come on, an ostrich is appealing. I find nothing aesthetically appealing about Javascript mixed with HTML (or PHP mixed with HTML for that matter). It looks like a cluttered unkempt kitchen to me!

The HTML tags (or XML tags, or SVG tags, for that matter) look like ugly kitchen jars (the kind that I would never buy if I saw them at Ikea) and the rest of the code is all other kitchen stuff strewn all about. Utensils, vegetable peelings, cleaning rags, what have you.

Yes when one is doing somewhat more hard-core Javascript programming one creates code files that are only Javascript. That is beautiful. More so when rendered with the beautiful color coding of Sublime Text. This, here, I would say, looks like a gorgeous parakeet.

javascript code sample
Javascript code sample from my computer.

That is why I would any day generate SVG via D3, rather than write SVG itself!

~ vani murarka