Try Watercolours: the perfect hobby (4 benefits)

Hobbies are an important aspect of life, in fact, an essential part of life. It’s easy to get so involved with work, drawn into social media feeds and busy with chores that we forget to do the things that are just for us. Things that make us light-hearted, joyful, calm and also heal and nurture us. Hobbies are a form of self-care, because we can express ourselves, unwind, slow down and return to our work refreshed and more focussed.

Below are four benefits of watercolours as a hobby, which I have come to appreciate over the many years of painting and sketching with them.

Portable Paint Sets (pocket-sized) for sketching on the Beach

1) It isn’t Time-Consuming (fits easily into your day)

It doesn’t take long to practice or learn a hobby like watercolours. It takes less time and is easier to learn the basics, than, say a sport or learning a musical instrument.

It doesn’t have to take more than a five-minute sketch to add a spark to your day. Watercolours dry fast, especially when using less water such as the wet-on-dry method. They dry much faster than thick oils or saturated poster paints.

Set anywhere between 5 minutes to 1 hour daily to feel the immediate benefits. Use chunks of time during holidays, weekends or spare hours to indulge yourself and dive deeper. Tip: If you feel you have no time at all, try to notice what you spend time on throughout your waking hours and analyze for yourself: could you use the early mornings for this hobby? Could you cut down on social media or reading the newspaper? Where can you carve out just a little space and time for yourself?

2) A Special Form of Self-Care (learn skills & connect with yourself)

I have found watercolours to be the best way to unwind and relax. There is something about the delicacy of water and light, and the softness of the pure, brilliant hues that really nurture me through my senses. Especially with the more light, pastel shades that glow on the page. It’s extremely satisfying to paint with the medium.

It isn’t surprising then, with all these nurturing qualities, that watercolours are also used in Art Therapy, a form of non-verbal therapy that has been very effective in dealing with a spectrum of issues, sometimes in conjunction with traditional counselling and/or a medical doctor. The healing aspect of watercolours is helpful for everyone, for example to release stress, tackle emotions like grief or anger, or explore something confusing that happened that day. It acts naturally as a form of self-healing by just practicing it. There’s also the art journal or art diary, and I would recommend looking into that practice if you wish to take this hobby to a more personal level.

3) Portability Factor (perfect when you’re on the move)

I like to carry my watercolour sketchbooks with me wherever I go, along with a portable paint set. That way, whenever I get the time and inclination to paint, it’s easily and quickly accessible. These can be pocket-sized or larger, to fit in your handbag or backpack.

Watercolours are very portable, suitable for any space whether it’s your office, a cafe, a park, or out in the countryside to paint landscapes.

4) Affordability of Materials (less pressure in making a start)

Watercolours are an affordable hobby. If you want to set yourself up with the basic materials, all that you will need to start are: student-grade paint-set; some flat and pointed brushes; hot-pressed or cold-pressed paper; a bound sketchbook (available in various sizes); a palette or set of shallow bowls; a rag cloth and/or paper towels for drying brushes and mopping up paint; and a container or two for water.

To paint on the go or out of doors, all you need is a travel paint set with one brush and a built-in palette; a watercolour sketchbook; rag cloth and small water container with lid.

I have developed my skills quite a bit over the years by just setting aside a little time in my day or week, learning through weekly classes and one-off workshops, as well as through books, blog posts, videos, that I’ve taken on the side.

It is a really worthwhile hobby and I hope you will consider trying out watercolours for yourself and see where it takes you. Let me know how it goes in the comments below or via the contact form!

Amalfi Coast Italy Travel Guide

If you’re thinking about visiting Southern Italy, then my travel article recently published by the Travelista Club might be for you. I dive into tips and suggestions for getting that authentic Italian experience from your holiday, and share ideas for making the most of your trip, including: the best time of year to visit, what to pack, places to see and an accommodation recommendation.

I was excited to share all this information, because I visited Amalfi with my partner, who is Italian, and it’s one of the best holidays we’ve had! I poured the experiences that made it special for us into this article, and I’ve even included a checklist at the end that you might find helpful.

Ready to discover the Amalfi Coast? Read the full article here.

Book Review: The Forty Rules of Love (Elif Shafak)

Published on Women’s Web

The Forty Rules of Love is a bestselling novel by the acclaimed Turkish author Elif Shafak. In this post I’m going to summarize the plot and go into the theme through quotes.

So, what is The Forty Rules of Love about?

The Parallel Narrative

It’s about an unhappily married housewife, Ella, living in the States. She is forty years old and works for a literary agency. When she is given a book named “Sweet Blasphemy” written by Aziz Zahara, the second narrative of novel-within-the-novel begins, unfolding the story of the meeting and ‘mystical union’ of Shams of Tabriz with Rumi, in the 13th century.

Wandering dervish, Shams, knows his death is coming and seeks a companion on his travels: someone to whom he can deliver his knowledge, his ‘forty rules of love’. And this someone, he finds out, is none other than Rumi. One thing leads to the next and he unites with Rumi in Konya.

While Ella is reading this novel and getting more and more captivated by it, she starts an email correspondence with its author, Aziz. On both sides, there is an exchange of a mystical love between Ella and Aziz; and Shams and Rumi.

In the end, Shams faces his inevitable death after setting Rumi on a different path to his life of sermons, by revealing to him that he is a born poet.

Similarly, Ella is set free from her old life: she decides to give up her role as a housewife and walk out on her family (including her adulterous husband) to be with Aziz – as far as I know, their relationship is platonic. He tells her that he has cancer and not much time to live.

After his death, she continues life with an open heart, to see where her path takes her now that she has learned to live in the present moment and listen to her heart.

There is a radical transformation in both narratives.

So, what is The Forty Rules of Love *really* about?

The Love, Religion and Knowledge Theme

This aspect is most obvious in the character of Shams. He is responsible for Rumi’s ‘Scholar to Poet’ transformation. He challenges a scholar-teacher in front of his young class. He goes into the tavern and the prostitution house to bring potent wisdom to those who need it and are ready to make a change. He sees God in everything and everyone and is quick to challenge those who comfortably stick to dogmas, book knowledge and societal tradition.

His message is: you can find God anywhere and everywhere, even in the most unlikely places, those places that society shuns or condemns. His forty rules make spirituality practical, attainable and more heart-oriented than fear-based or head-based.

Meet life with an open heart and see where it takes you! Be light, be free and find out what you are meant to do. Be present to what is needed of you: it will be different for each person and situation. This is what Rumi and Ella needed to learn for their life to flow again.

We either try to fight against the flow of life and resist it or we throw up our hands and give up. It’s easy to ‘get on with life’, even if we don’t find any meaning in what we do.

This quote encourages us to intentionally take hold and yield to life’s unpredictable, fast-moving and sometimes incomprehensible ways. It encourages us to trust and be awake at the same time.

In short, trust in higher reasons for the events of your life. Submission is a form of accepting wisely.

Our focus in life should be love. Love has many sides to it, so we need to be open and flexible to ask for each situation and each person we encounter: ‘What is needed? How can we approach this from a place of love?’

Shams and Aziz embodied love; and Rumi and Ella were the ones who had come to a place in life where they needed to take the next step on the inner journey. Their mystical companions came to set them on that path to Oneness: looking at the world through the eyes of love.


For more life-changing quotes from this novel, visit Thought Catalogue.

Art Experience: Indian Ceramics Triennale at JKK, Jaipur

I traveled with my husband Flavius Pisapia to the Indian Ceramics Triennale 2018. He was part of a group installation project titled Woven Together, with 42 other artists.

We made it to the opening on the 31st of August, right after checking into our accommodation. The Jawahar Kala Kendra building felt very welcoming, especially the Amphitheatre which was formed in a large round, open to the night sky.

The Exhibition: contemporary design in ceramics

With every new artwork I perceived, my mind was being opened. It’s not surprising that the tagline on the programme reads: ‘Breaking Ground 2018’. Here, the ceramic works have risen from the categorisation Craft to the status of Contemporary Art; that is the idea and attitude towards ceramics that the Triennale aims to inculcate. It is apparent to the viewer, as they engage with the impressive, curious and odd art pieces, that there is an underlying philosophy and a thought process, an essential element in the realm of art.

There were two artists’ work I was particularly grabbed by that evening: one was Nidhi Jalan’s “Aswattha” – a large work of miniature, intricately woven animal-like figures of a rainbow of colours, placed all over a large tree that is also delicately done with thin branches and roots.

“Aswattha is inspired by a verse in the Bhagavad Gita, which refers to the inverted tree…Nidhi Jalans work, which is based on interwoven cultures, the ease and unease of the transplant, and the fertile ground that makes for the birth of the unusual and fantastical life forms.”

On page 58 of the brochure: Nidhi Jalan

The other work was the amazing display of tiny shadows emanating from little natural forms that seemed like acorns, leaves and stones. The ceramic seeds, together with the lighting from below, were positioned on the wall in such a way as to create that shadow effect of a forest. It seemed as if the tiny tree-shaped shadows arose as an ‘imagination’, hovering above the physical seeds.

“Juxtaposed against the Windows is a forest of shadows, reminiscent of Jaipur block printing, created by form, material and the play of light and shadow. … speaks of the temporality and transience, of life and nature.”

On page 54 of brochure: Madhvi Subrahmanian

The title read, Forest of Shadows and seemed to attract quite a few viewers who were also taking many photos, trying to find the best angle with the shadows as well as the ‘Windows’ artwork on the left.

Symposium session: Clay and Community

We caught the first session of the Symposium Setting the Ground, that ran over two days in the morning and afternoon sessions. Session 1 was called Clay and Community, seen from three speaker’s perspectives according to their area of work.

“Art and society have always overlapped, both informing and reacting to the other. Ceramics as a material is rich with history and laden with metaphor.”

Introduction on page 109 of the brochure.

What I took away from the symposium, being completely new to the ceramic as well as the pottery world, can be summarised very briefly below. The talks awakened much interest in me for the creation of art through clay and working with the hands. It is literally the most down-to-earth form of artistic expression.

  • How does one appreciate artists who may be far out of reach from galleries or studios (artists working in villages, for example)
  • Could we begin to see so-called craftsmen or artisans as Artists with a capital A, in their own right?
  • What would it be like to bring all manner of sculptors, ceramicists, potters, and varying styles under one roof to celebrate all: inclusively, universally and without discrimination?
  • The movement our hands make when moulding, shaping and rolling clay is uniquely human; animals’ hands/paws cannot do it. Working with clay is something intrinsically human and connects with the development of our mind.
  • From dust to dust: we connect to clay deeply because we are made of the earth as well.

Environmentally friendly clay products

There are creative initiatives coming up in India that create innovative clay products in an effort to become more environmentally friendly.

For the Indian context it is a continuing journey to survive and thrive with clay traditions and annual festivals in the 21st century.

The symposium, Setting the Ground, provided potent ideas and opened my eyes to issues faced by Artists across the spectrum, in various contexts.

Visit www.indianceramicstriennale.com for more information.

Art Gallery visit: Samanvai’s Tree of Plenty exhibition

Our next stop was a visit to the Samanvai Art Gallery, in another part of town.

The three rooms showcased thought-provoking and diverse artworks based on the theme: “The Tree of Plenty”, showcasing 21 artists from all over India. I think the quote from participating artist Sangeeta Batra encapsulates it well and poetically:

“There’s always plenty.

Some stand alone.

Some lean on each other.

Some compete with one another.

Some are witnessed, some are not.

Yet, we all grow. In all of this movement and

stillness, there is abundance as long as we stay

open. Open to light, open to possibility and to each

other. We are one texture, many forms.

We are the tree of plenty.

May we stay awake, give, receive, grow and love

with abundance at our roots and benevolence on

our branches. All the pieces of my collection are

open forms. Open to you, your thoughts and your

feelings. May you receive them the same way.

May the interaction be fruitful.”

participating artist Sangeeta Batra

Two artworks which stood out for me particularly were the Eternal Wave and Glimpses of the Tree Journey. Both these works have the element of metamorphosis, of something transforming, morphing, much like a story – with beginning, middle and ending.

The first artwork, by Veena Singh, is made in stoneware coloured clay. Beautifully she writes in her statement about the work,

“Through my work I want to explore and emphasise this inherent and underlying harmony between nature, human beings and trees. We are a part of this universal whole…a wave that has risen in the sea of creation, …”

Veena Singh

In this piece, the energy of the sea-wave is communicated both in the textured colour of the clay as well as the dynamic, rumpled edges and the curls, swirls and folds worked into the shape of the clay. Into this scroll-like “canvas” arise faces – a half face that merges into the background, the middle face well-formed and contoured in more detail and emerging further out from the relief. This middle face, as in the middle of a person’s life, is the most defined and formed. The two on either side are in a state of becoming and dissolving, like the growing child or the ageing elder.

The artist has ended her statement with: “…a brief existence destined to merge into the elements of eternity.”

Eternal Wave

The word ‘eternity’ does conjure up, visually, the never-ending horizon, which is captured in the elongated shape and outline in Eternal Wave.

Glimpses of the Tree Journey, has a more self-contained picture of a developmental phase. Based on the wall-hanging format, it has three tiles stitched together in a rectangular frame. The subtitle reads: Glimpses of Growth, Bloom & Prosperity.

Here, the artist Manasvi Mhatre expresses her interest in the process of the tree’s growth; something we may not usually think about as we are so taken up with its outer beauty:

“When we think of beauty in nature, we most immediately think of things that dazzle the senses… but we often miss the beauty of its journey from early stage…till prosperity.”

Manasvi Mhatre

Looking for beauty not only in what the senses present to us, but also in what is hidden – the phases of growth and transformation the tree undergoes from seed, sprout, flowering, and so on until it is fully developed into a large, complex and beautiful form.

Group Exhibition: Woven Together (Installation)

The collaborative art project conceptualised by Ruby Jhunjhunwala and created by original works from 42 artists around the world has an impressive presence and can be physically experienced from inside by walking inside it.

Connected ceramic tiles form a whole network: fabric-like, fusing together different voices and styles of each individual artist. When I beheld it, I felt: “the individual harmonises with community.” Each hung panel of hand-sized tiles carries its own message and story, yet merges seamlessly into the entirety of the work. It looked like a large stylized tree.

The trip was like a big bouquet of colourful, artistic and scenic experiences. I think my senses were overloaded with all the sight-seeing and art viewing we did. By writing about it, I feel I have processed all my experiences and drawn focus to those special moments that had something to teach or show me.

Writing Copy for Artist Website

Website copy is an important piece of written work. It communicates and potentially sells a product or service, and makes and promotes a brand. I worked with my husband on his brand new artist website: writing his bio, art descriptions, web page copy, news summaries and more.

As an artist, it has become so important to represent yourself and your work through your website. It works not only as a portfolio but also reaches out to your audience who would like to get a hold of your work or ask for commissions. The artist bio and statement are important pieces, to be displayed on the website as well as online profiles and social media accounts.

FLAVIUS VALONE PISAPIA

Biography

There were some key areas I covered in Pisapia’s bio: where he was born, his early influences, family, art education and art inspiration and influences. It takes a deeper look into how he emerged as an artist as well as the evolution of his art into organic, pure sculptural form.

The biography tells a story; of the artist from the perspective of his outer life as well as his developing thought process, inner experience and findings.

Would you like to learn more about Flavius Pisapia? Read his bio here.