The storm that brooded over the sea, that lay coiled in the currents which touched the land, had rendered quietness in my garden. Today a querulous crow sat on the wall demanding pigeons, that made homes under air conditioners, step out. The crow entreated dragon flies to bounce the morning sun off their lacy wings.
I had planned to spend the weekend with two of my friends in the hills of Yelagiri, trekking and painting. We had to cancel the trip because of forecast of heavy rain and gale. I remained indoors missing my usual Saturday afternoon session of outdoor painting. I read, drank gallons of tea as I watched the sky weepy and wet. Like a miracle the sun came out for a brief time, soaking my terrace in ethereal light. Tens of dragon flies flashing rainbow wings descended here to celebrate.
There is a house in the Theosophical society named after Arundale, it was probably here that the celebrity couple who made history in their own fields, lived. It is a beautiful old house shaded by trees, not very far from the Adyar river. The river at the back yard, the sea not too far might have offered a rich environment for creativity to blossom. It might have been the place where dreams were born, the Arundales have left behind a world class academy for performing arts and music in Kalakshetra.
I did the sketch of the Arundale house on a brick red tinted paper, mainly to capture the old world look of the place.
I was captivated by this arch of creepers outside a fairly new building that is the administrative block of the Society. I have used green tinted paper to minimise work on creepers and plants.
The word ‘vaatsalya’ in Sanskrit means love, affection, tenderness, fondness; this word is used to describe a mother’s love for her child. The banyan tree embraces, like a mother with hundred arms, her brood of children. It wrapped me into this embrace of life.
The banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) at The Theosophical Society in Chennai, spreads across 60,000 square area and is some 450 years old. Growing on the banks of the Adyar river, not too far from where the river drains into the Bay of Bengal, this banyan tree has had its tryst with history. In the Blavatsky bungalow that is nearly strangled by the colony of roots of this tree, stayed Rabindranath Tagore; the tree has extended its hospitality to several other luminaries too, like J Krishnamurti, Annie Besant and Maria Montessori.
The tree with its immense settlement of aerial roots and its extensive green canopy has a presence that has to be experienced. The main tree was uprooted by gale in 1989 and efforts made to root it back failed. There is a hollow now where there was once this immense trunk. The aerial roots that have come from the mother tree, have put out branches and spread the canopy around. This is a clonal colony carrying memories of the mother tree in their fibers of existence.
This is the old tree I have written about. I used tinted papers and soft pastels for these two sketches.
I have used the negative space to suggest the undergrowth of ferns in this painting.
It was a warm Saturday afternoon, a typical September day with clouds tucked high in the inky sky and dragon flies swooping near the grass. I sat on the cool lawn in Vasant Vihar (Krishnamurti Foundation)and began sketching the cottage called ‘Banyan’ that was shrouded in thick vegetation of palms, laburnum trees and trumpet vine whose flowers secreted the afternoon light in their petals. The sun played so beautifully on the cottage and I captured the light in a quick water colour wash.
As I finished my water colour Kalpana , fellow urban sketcher, joined me on the cool lawn. Both of us drew the main building that houses the library and office.
There is a very dense cover of trees, creepers and ferns opposite the main building. I worked on a tinted paper with crayons to capture the interplay of greens and browns with light and darkness. I did not worry about the details and focussed on forms emerging out of tones of colours.
I went to the Krishnamurti Foundation with my dear friend Vaani. We sat on the lawn warmed by the afternoon sun. We spoke a lot, shared so much sitting on the emerald carpet of prickly grass and I was happy to sketch in my friend’s company. Just as I completed these three drawings, the sprinklers hidden under the grass got activated and we just missed getting drenched.
We walked in the garden, stopped to look at the flowers and bugs wearing fancy coloured coats. We sat on a stone seat and I completed a quick water colour of the tree draped by creepers and flanked by pink croton plants.