Believe in Color

 

Made this for Mariposa Montessori school’s annual fundraiser. I call it Believe in Color – When you are all black, white and blue, you have to believe in the magic of color. Keep the faith, look up high and know that hope surrounds you.

I’m enjoying these Nursery Art creations that are black, white and rainbow – my favorite color combination. And a fun activity here is to find my name in these paintings.

I’m taking custom order for commissions, so if you like what you see please let me create something for you.

If you are in Austin, are 14+, like the art I create, would like to learn and practice art, that’s completely customized for honoring your being, please lets connect.

Also part of #the100DayProject here: https://www.instagram.com/likewisearts/

Rainbow Zebra

Made this for my daughter, her birthday gift from Mama. She loves Zebras and wants everything to be rainbow colored. My little Yoda is growing up so fast.
Kids teach us so much and my little one is my special teacher, she teaches me everyday to slow down, stop to look at the purple bonnets (not bluebonnets because they aren’t blue), be true to my words and to simplify.

She is the reason behind Like Wise and any art I create for kids. (I am taking custom orders.) This last year has been all about to listening to my little Yoda’s wisdom. I’m sure you have stories of your kids or even yourself when you were kids that are just in your memories. If you’d like them illustrated, please send them to me.

While I’m trying to figure out what’s next on my To Do list she says, “Mama, silly Mama, let’s just play.” So that’s what I’ll do for now, play. Hope your weekend is rainbow colored and full of play time as well.

If you are in Austin, are 14+, like the art I create, would like to learn and practice art, that’s completely customized for honoring your being, please lets connect.

Also part of #the100DayProject here: https://www.instagram.com/likewisearts/

 

Buddha Element

Here he is, my new Buddha painting. Thank you Amitabh and Zoe Ghoshal for giving me the opportunity to create this for you. Thank you for trusting me with and giving me the freedom to come up with this artwork. Freedom in terms of colors, composition, medium, all components an artist loves to play with and play I did, for long! Thank you for being so patient while I worked on this.

More than the Buddha himself this painting is about the idea of mindful living, of just being with self love and appreciation while loving and revering the elements around us. The face is meant to be neutral so that when you look at it it reflects whatever’s within you. If you are sad it looks like a sad face, if you are content it looks a satisfied face… it’s all about being yourself.

Buddha Element. SOLD. Acrylics on Canvas. 48"x36"
Buddha Element. SOLD. Acrylics on Canvas. 48″x36″. Actively accepting custom orders.

Acrylics on Canvas
4ft x 3ft

I really enjoyed creating all the effects with texture. In some places the blue textured part looks like the earth and roots and in some places it looks like icy blue mountains and in some it looks like water and ocean waves. All signifying the earth and the elements around us.

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All that texture!

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Dear everyone, I’m actively seeking custom orders. Please let me create a painting/ artwork for you customized to your vision, ideas, color choices, style. I’ll also ship it to you. Wahooooo!

Time and Patience

The strongest of all warriors are Time and Patience. Just when I start over thinking it all, the universe sends me a reminder that while it may take a long time the seeds will sprout some day. Received this as a testimonial for my art work…..

“Dear Meenakshi
I met you years ago (2008) at an art fair and loved your artwork, it made a tremendous impact on me. Your work is stunning…. it just spoke to me!…….”

She was talking about my Warli paintings.

This is what I live for. Crying happy tears.

Who am I?

When I set off on my journey last year I told myself it was to start an education non-profit organization. It sure started like that but it quickly turned into a self-discovery and self-definition journey. I, very soon, got into the Who Am I never-ending question.

To help answer that identity question I read books. My favorite reads so far in this past year have been Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Rhino who Swallowed a Storm by LeVar Burton and The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito. All talked about living fully with an open heart. I had some amazing conversations with inspiring people and they also told me to be myself. Yoga retreats, meditation sessions, articles, movies, music, everything pointed to finding my being. You would think it’d be easy to start walking in that direction with so many leading pointers but I got distracted. I got stuck in a self-pity loop thinking everyone else’s life is so much more interesting than mine.The only thing that jolted me out of it and helped me answer this mystical sounding question with a potentially enormously huge answer was drawing, drawing my heart out, scribbling, doodling, painting and of course meditating – that’s what worked for me. When I forget this, please remind me. I’m making you in-charge of this. Remind me to draw to find answers. The answer to who I am lies here:

 

whoami

I create, paint, illustrate.

I’m a STEM education proponent.

I mother my beautiful and powerful daughter.

I engineer electrical circuits and audio technology.

I communicate my thoughts in my blog and  articles.

I speak at events to inspire children to find their voices and contribute to our futures.

Most importantly, I connect all of this together to define my being.

I have been trying to balance, connect and juggle a lot of different personality traits. The MBTI people say I’m an Advocate (INFJ). The Strengths Finder people say my strengths are: Empathy, Communication, Related, Developer, Discipline. As Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in her Curiosity leading to Passion talk, I’m a hummingbird going from tree to tree, flower to flower, trying this, trying that, creating a rich complex life for myself and cross-pollinating the world. Hummingbirds are people who bring an idea from one place to another where we learn something new, weave it in, take it to the next thing we do so that our perspectives end up keeping the entire culture aerated, mixed up and open to the new and fresh. So here I am. Artist, engineer, social entrepreneur and mama who loves drinking chai, gardening, the smell of rain, hand writing letters, bollywood songs, elephants, Bombay, Camp Grounded, STEM education, the color blue, hiking, star gazing, upcycling, yoga, paisley designs, ghazals, doing arts and crafts with my daughter, books, Pema, my family, friends and my hummingbird self.

RIP Levi Felix Fidget

The world lost a visionary, a change maker, a proponent of connection, the founder of Camp Grounded, Levi Felix. I lost a friend, a guide, a source of inspiration, Fidget. After putting up a kickass fight he was taken from this world by a rare form of brain cancer. If you know about my journey, you know that me finding the power to finally take the decision to bring about a change was a direct result of camp and people like Fidget.

Adam Smiley Poswolsky has a wonderful article here about Fidget, his life, his visions and the magic he created. As for me, when I heard the news I went through a range of negative emotions – sadness, anger, shock, denial, grief. Then I got my box full of camp craziness out and as I thumbed thru my camp pocket book, the painted rocks, feathers, stickers, glitter, the many letters I’ve received since camp, I couldn’t help but smile. Positivity wins this battle, it has to, because this is what Fidget would have wanted. He would have wanted me singing out loud while chasing butterflies in a rainbow colored tutu. I smile, because that’s what my spirit is giving me permission to do right now. Here’s a memory that keeps coming back to me:

It was the last day of my first camp. As everyone was saying their goodbyes, I was standing there for a bit trying to wrap my head around what I had just experienced in the last four days. Fidget happened to walk by me and asked, “How are you?” I said, “I don’t know.” He stopped, looked at me, smiled, said nothing in words but the expression on his face told me that he wanted me to continue talking so I did. He had just given his closing speech in which he had spoken about clasping your hands the other way, with the less dominant thumb on top, about making the harder choices and embracing those changes. I told him how I was indeed trying to take the road less traveled and how horribly difficult I was finding it to be. This is what he said and I will never ever forget it,

“Even in your clasped hands your middle finger can stick up and say, Fuck you inner critic.”

We laughed. He then gave me a hug. I will never forget that laughter, that hug. He left me with an experience that changed my life. He gave me, us, the gift of camp, ever lasting life long friends, our community. Thank you. I remain forever grateful Fidget. Love you.

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Camp Grounded 2016

Last year, this time, when I came back from my digital detox at Camp Grounded I couldn’t stop talking about how it was the best thing I had done for myself. I had laughed, cried, danced, cheered, played, clapped and lived each moment to the fullest. I had experienced the wonder of some of the most honest friendships, the shooting stars, the camp fires, the heartfelt conversations and the random outbursts of energy all well-balanced with reminders to slow down and breathe. Since camp last year, I have made some pretty courageous decisions that have led to some kickass life changes. I can’t thank camp enough for it. When I went back to camp this year, I couldn’t help but notice the changes in myself. The me at camp last year and the me at camp this year are two such beautifully different people. I went back a more fearless, out-there me, willing to try new things that I would otherwise never have. I wasn’t worried about fitting in or about being called weird because, you know what, we are all weird and we all have the same worries. Camp made me realize that we are more similar than different. We all have battles we are fighting, challenges we are facing and problems we are grappling to solve. We all have the same fears and vulnerabilities and camp provides a safe place for us to be. Camp accepts me for who I am, engulfs my fears, my hesitations, my weirdnesses and surrounds me with so much love that I can’t help but be free…. Free to be who I am. Somewhere under that vast Texas sky full of stars and many many shooting stars, in that gigantic two hundred and fifty people strong group hug, in that roar of laughter and cheers at camp games, in the weird moments of silence, in all the arms outstretched ever-ready for hugs, in the melodies and warmth of campfires I found myself, my true self, my being. Thank you Camp Grounded!

Creative Corner Arts Summer Camp

We just wrapped up our first season of STEM summer camp around several rec centers in Austin – what turned out to be an incredible experience, both for us and the students.We worked on so many different projects, ranging from Optical Physics to Pattern Recognition, even Algorithms and Flowcharts. We all learned a lot from each other and more importantly, the students don’t cease to amaze us with their spontaneity, logical reasoning and enthusiasm.

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42 days in

It has been over a month. 42 days to be precise since I left behind those structured, fairly predictable days, be in terms of time, money or even goals. Every morning that I have woken up since then, I can’t thank everyone around me and the universe enough for giving me the capability to say, “It’s going to be a wonderful day,” rather than “Do I have to goto work?”

All along I knew that my break from working full time as an engineer would not be a break, because that’s just who I am. I can’t sit down and do nothing. I need to feel productive at the end of the day to sleep well at night. In fact, in the last few weeks I have worked harder than I ever have. Yesterday was the last day of the summer camp I was running at City of Austin’s rec centers. We had a contract with the City to teach STEAM sessions in their summer camps and yesterday we wrapped up what turned out to be five adventurous weeks of teaching and learning. I can’t get over how time flew by! Feels like just yesterday when I was feeling overwhelmed and worried about how it was all going to go and now it’s all done with. It was such a great experience, especially since some things were executed flawlessly and with some I just fell flat on my face. I definitely have lots of areas of improvement and aspects I need to focus on. I learned so much and had a few eye-opening realizations.

I realized that my dream is just that. My dream. No one else can feel the same level of passion, commitment and belief like I do towards it. No matter how much I try and paint the picture, try and make it crystal clear with specifics to the T, no one else will feel the burn like I do. I have found like-minded people who share the same passion and struggle, and while we are all in it together, nudging each other along, sharing our stories and helping each other along, we all have our own journeys, our own inner storms and emotions that make us all so similarly unique. Our paths may cross and we might even depend on each other, but in the end it’s our own dream, our origin, our peace.

In my fifteen years of working I admit I never felt fully confident, because I was never been in a position of power. I always worked towards someone else’s vision defined by someone else’s needs. I never felt a complete sense of ownership. But now, just in the last few months that I have been working towards my mission of promoting STEAM education, I feel own this problem and I feel confident as can be! Even though I’m not sure where this journey is going to take me I still feel sure that, whatever the destination, it’s going to be worthwhile. All along my co-workers who actually enjoy their work would tell me, “The ambiguity of the problem is part of thrill.” I never got that until now! Now I know what it means to just relax and enjoy the moment, enjoy the journey. There is enough poetry written about how time goes by, how now is the time and I feel I understand all those seemingly romantic theories only now. And even if I fall a million times along this path and end up with bruises, I know that it will be something I will always be thankful for.

More than anything, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support and help I have got from people around me. You! All of you! Friends, family members, acquaintances, new friends and well wishers! You all have stepped up to help in whatever way you can that I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to all of you. All I can say is – Thank you!

Engineering a Dream

Today is my last day at work. Fifteen years of working as a full time Electrical Engineer will be paused today, to pursue my dream of starting a non-profit organization focused on children’s education.

I have gone through a whole range of emotions since I made this decision towards the end of last year. At first, I just couldn’t wait for the time to come. My patience was running out as I was making lists of things I was going to do. As the time drew closer to let my manager know, I would walk by his office feeling like a kid who had snuck an extra cookie when no one was looking. For weeks, I felt liberated and excited. Soon, it was the day to let him know and I was struck by a huge wave of self-doubt and questions. Why was I saying goodbye to my beautiful paycheck? The benefits? The free fruit? The free yoga classes? For the first time in the last fifteen years, I would not be financially independent, I would not be making my own money. I was scared and nervous to say the least. Then my dear friend, Arjun’s words echoed in my ears, “Do your actions expand your heart or are you contracting with fear?” I had smiled at him when he had looked at me endearingly and asked me that question. I smiled again with a sense of belief. I knew that my life was at the cusp of a major change. When I finally did break the news to my manager, I was bowled over by his encouraging words. We even had a brief discussion about purpose and direction. It was reassuring to hear that he’d miss this hard working engineer, but it felt even better when he said, “You are braver than I am.” And since then, I feel my heart has only expanded. As I have told my co-workers, friends and family of my plans I have only received overwhelming support, backing and offers to help, for which I am so thankful. I feel a lot of us are trying to break off the red velvet handcuffs, but we go on with them for our reasons and responsibilities. So when one of us does take the brave step ahead, there’re only well wishes because they can now live a little more through this person’s fearlessness.

I watched Caroline Boudreaux’s TedxYouth talk (The Miracle Foundation), where she talks about having everything money can buy and yet not being happy. As for me, I was very happy that my parents had done everything they could to ensure I had a sound foundation of education. They sent me to the US to pursue the American Dream. To say the least, I have been living that life for a while now, but a few years back a feeling of unrest set in. The feeling that “something needs to be done,” about children’s education. My amazingly talented friend, Indu Harikumar, who seemingly effortlessly puts herself out there once told me, “You’ll be ready when you tell yourself a different story.” I did. To try and solve the problem, my friend, Kirti and I, co-founded an organization, called Creative Corner Arts, that promotes STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education for children so that they may have the opportunity to pursue the career paths our parents made possible for us. My goal is to be able to bring this program to the financially challenged areas of Austin, because I know some of the kids there are yearning for an opportunity to experiment with these areas of education, beyond what their schools offer. The hope is to create a non-profit organization that works with children, because I’ve been amazed by how curious the children are and how unafraid they are to learn, question and understand how things around them function. This reminds me of Dan Barber’s episode of Chef’s Table Blue Hill Farm where he talked about there being a real advantage to creating when the vectors don’t point at you. Where the vectors point at something else, an over riding message, a purpose.

Here I am now, bidding farewell to my world of safety, security and stability. I remember my favorite Buddhist monk, Pema Chodron, talking about this. She talked about how life sometimes seems like a turbulent river threatening to drown us and destroy the world. Why, then, shouldn’t we cling to the certainty of the shore—to our familiar patterns and habits? All the years when I have considered and reconsidered taking this step into the unknown, I have remembered her saying that that kind of fear-based clinging keeps us from the infinitely more satisfying experience of being fully alive and that learning to step right into the river, to completely and fearlessly embrace the groundlessness of being human is the first step. And when we do that, we begin to see not only how much better it feels to live that way, but we find that we begin to naturally and effectively reach out to others in care and support. And so, the first step has been taken in the direction Camp Grounded challenged me to look. My life changing experience there, last year, provided so much nourishment to the seeds in my brain waiting to sprout that I had no choice but to be vulnerageous. 🙂

I’m also building in play time for me during this phase. I’m hoping to paint and go back to selling my paintings. Do more woodworking, play with clay and pottery, travel, see my lovies, my friends who have supported me through my journey and who I will turn to when I am faced with the demons within me. I want to spend many more timeless moments of laughter and wisdom that my four year old doles out. I also want to write in my journal and also here because it’s heart-warming people who have inspired me by sharing their journeys so endlessly. I count on them and you for taking me on mine. And as I do that, there might be a chance someone else might benefit from all of this and we might all build strong bonds on the way due to our similarities and eccentricities. Help us know what we don’t know. Like my daughter said last night and I re-phrase, “It will be frustrating, but we’ll figure it out together.”