Creative Corner Arts

Meenakshi Matai and Kirti Joshi Bhave would like to introduce – “Creative Corner Arts” – a place where creativity is unveiled through the medium of art. Creative Corner Arts conducts monthly art workshops in Austin, Texas for adults and kids in a fun loving setting. The workshops will challenge your creativity as we cover a wide variety of art mediums. Our kids workshops are designed to open up the world of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) or culture to our children. The topics will range from traditional art to introducing science and math concepts that are a part of our daily lives. The workshops will work towards building artistic, scientific, social and personal skills.With Creative Corner Arts we want to empower our next generation to be independent, confident and creative thinkers.
Join us as we follow our curiosity and indulge in art.

Diya Painting Workshop

Thank you so much Manjunath Shivappa for your kind words, for being our super helpful photographer and for this awesome review of our diya painting workshop. Kirti Joshi Bhave and I had an amazing time sharing our love for art with our budding artists.

We held a terracotta lamp (diya) lamp painting workshop as a community event for the Indian festival of lights, Diwali. Children 4 years and up participated to paint diyas while learning about color mediums, color combinations, type of brushes, sealing and proofing art work. They also learned about the significance of Diwali and how diyas are traditionally made. It was a fulfilling experience as each child took home two finished pieces! They all came out with a sense of accomplishment and better yet were excited about lighting up these diyas on Diwali day! The event was held on October 11, 2014 at the Austin Public Library’s Hampton Branch.

More here on Creative Corner Arts’ page.


From Orange, White and Green to Red, White and Blue

From Orange, White and Green to Red, White and Blue
Written on the eve of becoming a US citizen

Today, September 20 2012, is the last day of my Indian citizenship.
Tomorrow I’ll be taking the oath of loyalty and citizenship for the
United States of America.

I have always believed that India is my janma bhoomi (birth land) and
US my karma bhoomi (land of work). I adopted the US more than 11 years
back, but today I’m reflecting on what it means now that this country
is adopting me. I came here as a clueless 21 year old who was told to
go to the US for higher education and a better standard of living. I
think we upper middle class Indian 21 year olds are really less mature than
Americans of the same age. I lived with my parents, ate my Mom’s home
made meals, had home service for cleaning, laundry and what not. I
would barely lift a finger except for some bare minimum amount of
studying to go to college and get a Bachelors degree. Life was all
about enjoying with friends and almost zero responsibilities. Until
one day I graduated and came to the US with my entire life packed in
2 suitcases. Quite a drastic reality check happened at this point.
There was no one to help here, just some equally clueless friends at
the University. I went from being a pampered daughter to a 4am front
desk shift worker at the library in a matter of one week. Yes, that
was my first job ever. My first pay check totaled a whole $74 after 2
weeks, but the dollars left me as quickly as they found me. There were books,
groceries and rent waiting to be paid. Luckily for me I had the
support of my family and a scholarship which helped pay for school.
Now, 11 years later, I make several digits more than that and don’t
think twice before spending $74. And for that, I am thankful to this
country. It’s isn’t just economical growth that I’ve found here, I
have learned a lot of lessons, formed life long memories and grown
into a versatile woman in her thirties.

What I like the most about this country is its forgiveness for
failure. Everyone gets a second, third, fourth, nth chance here.
Failures are not judged and carved on your forehead. They are
gracefully embraced, learned from and put behind. At any point, I can
decide to change paths, change careers, change my lifestyle and no one
will stop me. Maybe no one cares. Or maybe every one is supportive.
It’s a matter of perspective. And that’s the beauty of the US. If I am
optimistic this place will come together to help reach my goals. If I
am cynical and want to find fault in everything, there are enough
movies I can critique while being a couch potato. Everything is
supported and anything goes.

Does this mean I’m happier being a US citizen? I don’t think that
question has a clear Yes or No answer. My favorite music is still from
bollywood, but a saxophone’s jazz tunes can get me moving too. I still
dig out the best Chaat in any town but boy! do I relish that tiramisu.
I will still watch cricket all night long over super bowl, but I will
also gaze up dreamily as fireworks light up the 4th of July sky. Maybe
then I am a citizen of both the countries. Unfortunately, that luxury
does not exist officially. Just the way we never stop loving our true
first love, I can never stop thinking of myself as an Indian. I am
thankful to India for planting the seeds and am thankful to the US for
raising me up to make me who I am. The two countries are my two
parents. One who nurtured and sheltered, and the other who gave me
wings to fly and explore. One who gave me the freedom to grow beyond
what I had imagined and one who found me a settling point.

India gave me the roots, the senses, the education and the blood that
flows in my veins. US gave me the personality, the ethics, the work
and the dream that sparkles in my eyes. My husband, my daughter, my
friends, my home, my US. My parents, my town, my people, my home, my
India. When I go to India next, I will cross international boundaries
as a Person of Indian Origin, but I will be going home to sleep
in my comforting bed. And when I come back to the US as a citizen, I
will still be going home to sleep in my comforting bed. Whether
I look at the moon from here or there, here’s hoping that the comfort
of home never fades in either place.

Bhupen Hazarika lives on

Mira couldn’t have said it any better and I feel exactly the same way ….. quoting, “I was 12. And Doordarshan was the only channel that I was exposed to, maybe there existed no other. One day I heard a beautiful song on DD…it went, “Ek kali, do patiyan…nazook nazook ungli, tod rahi hain kaun yeh ek kali do patiyan, Ratanpur bageeche mein”. A very soothing voice. Had never heard anything like that before. The song was picturised on beautiful girls picking tender tea leaves on some tea-estate in Assam. Time and again, a stern looking man wearing a Kumaoni kind of cap made his presence felt on the screen. His name read Bhupen Hazarika. For someone who had only heard of Kishore Kumar, Rafi and Mukesh, this sure was a different voice. But the voice and that first song stayed. RIP Bhupen Hazarika.”

Warli class at ASU Prep Academy

ASU Prep Academy was doing a study of ancient India in their 1st and 2nd grade classes. For the arts section, they chose Warli!!! Imagine my surprise when I was invited to speak to the kids and teach them basic Warli skills! It was such a joy introducing these curious minds to the world of triangle people (as they like to call them). The kids had a great time learning about Warli and making their own Warli art. I fell in love with their creativity and their intelligent questions. I even got hugs from them and they really didn’t want me to leave. Don’t know if that was because they enjoyed Warli so much or because they were trying to avoid their next class 🙂

Pictures here.

Arts of India – Tanjore

This month we travel to the land of beautiful and intricate architecture, Tanjore. With an average of 3 temples every square kilometer, stunning paintings are a cultural legacy here. Read the full article in this month’s Valley India Times.

Arts of India – Tanjore Paintings


As the early bird relishes its catch in the paddy fields, not too far away a school bus honks almost joyously as it transports eager, yet sleepy, minds to school. Honking two wheelers and cars announce the rushed lives of their owners on their way to work. The shop keepers put out loud advertising boards hoping to earn business as their first few customers walk in. Life continues as normal in this town of Thanjavur, in Tamil Nadu. What would seem just mundane at first glance sets the backdrop for a culturally rich venue of South Indian art and architecture. With an average of three temples every square kilometer, Tanjore (as coined by the British) carries with it a culturally rich legacy.

Thanjavur tells the story of a striving and self sufficient kingdom, one that kings fought over and one where they all wanted to leave a mark. The Cholas, Marathas and Nayakas left more than a mark here. They built beautiful temples and palaces, all of which are symbols of exemplary artistry. It is no wonder that over the years Thanjavur has become a hub of Carnatic music, Bharatnatyam dance and Tanjore paintings. While each reigning empire brought about a cultural movement here, it was the Nayakas who were mainly responsible for promoting art in the 1600s. Artists were commissioned to create paintings that told stories of Gods, Goddesses and holy saints as protagonists. Temples were built with walls adorned with such murals. While the colors might have faded over centuries, these paintings continue to live on and in a sense have made their creators immortal. What might have started as a form of documentation slowly got transformed into a vibrant and colorful form of art.

The process of creating a Tanjore painting is very involved and detailed, one that calls for meticulous craftsmanship at each stage. Each painting begins with fine and delicate cotton fabric glued on a wooden plank. A thick coating of chalk powder and gum provides a strong base which is smoothened with abrasives. Composition is extremely important in these paintings due to their intricate details and it’s at this stage that the artist decides this with a sketch. The paintings get a new dimension with some fine relief work which is how the finished paintings get their embossed look. Natural dyes color these works of art in vibrant and royal hues. What makes Tanjore art so unique and different from all other Indian art is the use of rich embellishments. Semi-precious stones, pearls and 24 carat gold not only adorn these paintings, but also speak of the ancient kingdom’s prosperity.

As the town of Thanjavur continues to grow around echoes of holy chants and temple bells, artists still create Tanjore paintings – paintings that carry with them not just a sacred feeling, but a historic and ethnic identity. While these classical paintings may have found a spot in people’s traditional homes, they have yet to break into the new and contemporary decor. Maybe when you are re-decorating next, you could add a touch of old world charm to your home, perfectly provided by these exquisite and regal Tanjore paintings.

Happy International Integration Day

Lets call today “International Integration Day.”

Today, on the eve of a remorseful September 11, the world is immersed in profound emotions, when some barely got done with Mother Mary’s birthday celebration, some are welcoming a new year with Rosh Hashanah, some bidding farewell to a favorite month and giving thanks with Eid ul-Fitr, some are singing Happy Birthday to Lord Ganesha with Ganesh Chaturthi and some are asking for forgiveness with Michhami Dukkadam. As each individual group plays its part with reverence to its own God, our integrated world plays a balancing act of happiness and sadness.

Arts of India – Madhubani contd.

After last month‘s introductory article on Madhubani paintings, Valley India Times’ September article continues to tell the story.

Arts of India – Madhubani/ Mithila Paintings – Part 2

In last month’s article we introduced you to the tradition of Madhubani paintings, created by the Mithila people out of devotion to the Hindu Gods. Artistic know-how is an inheritance the Mithilis receive from their older generations. The act of creating and the saga of this art form have been kept alive for ages, thanks to the women. Grandmothers and mothers continue to tell their kids mythological stories associated with these paintings, while teaching them how to paint, so that they can maintain their beliefs and practices. That is why an artist’s family and background usually define his/ her painting style. Following the Hindu caste system, there are distinct styles of Madhubani in the Brahmin, Kayastha and Harijan communities. The women of Mithila usually adhere to themes from their own genre, maintaining their identity.

The “Brahmins” and the “Kayasthas” (priests and scribes) focus on capturing religious and mythological stories in their paintings. Their styles differ in color and detail. The Brahmins depict holy deities in bright colors and fine details, whereas the Kayasthas choose a more discreet palette. The two styles are very similar and very different at the same time. The Brahmins’ paintings belong to the “Bharni” style which fills all blank spaces with brightly colored flowers, trees and birds surrounding their main sacred figures. The Kayasthas paintings belong to the “Kachni” style and have a very similar composition, but they are done only in black and red inks with their characteristic lines and dots.

Another style within Madhubani paintings is called “Godhana” which is practiced by the “Harijan” community. Their paintings are not limited to sacred figures, instead are inspired by their body tattoos, which have been a family custom for centuries. They choose to cross strict aesthetic definitions and indulge in illustrations with animals, scenes from daily life and their cultural adventures. While they use brilliant colors, they choose a more geometric style of painting with lines, circles and rectangles. They, sometimes, keep their paintings simple with just a dark brown background done with cow dung and fill in the details in just one or two colors.

With growing demand from the modern world, the demarcations in Mithila paintings have blurred. Women from one caste have started painting in styles of another caste, while also mixing styles and themes. The credit for this goes to the Mithila people who have kept this tradition alive for ages, while embracing rapidly changing times around them. Madhubani paintings have evolved over time, but they are still vying for attention from the contemporary art lover.

Madhubani paintings, today, are a characteristic of North India, as their vibrant colors and sophisticated details tell the stories of the region’s rich culture and heritage. In keeping with this theme, next month we will travel down South to the classical Tanjore paintings.