Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith

Keri Smith was my favourite illustrator, back when I used to know enough illustrators to have a favourite. Her blog, The Wish Jar, is one of the most interesting things on the internet. Tall claim, but trust me. Keri Smith has written a number of activity books for adults. Wreck This Journal, published way back in 2007, is an attempt to get the journal-er to embrace chaos and messiness. Each page has an innovative instruction to effectively wreck the journal – spill coffee! drag it across the floor! colour outside the lines! use makeshift brushes! – exercises to unleash the inner child. 
So far, my singular aim has been to not let any page set the tone for the rest of the journal. Many of the Youtube videos of completed Wreck This Journals have pages and pages completed in a style peculiar to that journal-writer. And while the result is often beautiful, it’s not chaotic enough. I want to surprise and myself every time. And so some pages of my journal end up quite lackluster while others are more vivid than ever.
Here are four favourites pages, each very different from each other. The first is inspired from Buddhist mandalas, though I am not sure I possess the skill required for the intricate detailing they demand. The second, apart from a base wash of green, is made entirely using toothpicks dipped in flowy and thick poster colour. The third design is borrowed from my favourite pair of chappals – the prompt was to cover the page in circles – and required a great deal of patience too. The fourth required me to connect the black circles from memory – I originally meant to draw sun flowers but these happened. 
I have been keeping a tortoisey pace – slow and steady – about twelve pages in three months. Nevertheless, the activities are incredibly relaxing, more so after a difficult day at work. Keri Smith is not wrong, there is something specially liberating about colouring outside the lines, about spilling things, tearing up paper, cracking spines and dog-earing pages. I am quite finicky about the way one handles books. But over the past month I have found myself appreciating a good coffee stain, a pageful of notes in the margin, that sort of thing. And with fifty prompts continually whirling around in my head, I feel I have started noticing things better, all around me – patterns, colours, ideas. 
The journal is a very personal thing, and this is hardly a review. But I am sharing it here because in the past a certain amount of accountability has done me a lot of good. I also made an Instagram page (whatever they are called) to share my progress with the Wreck This Journal. It turns out the Insta-world is filled with other Wreckers and it’s a treasure to interact. I do hope you check out the page and buy yourself a Wreck This Journal as well. Meanwhile, any recommendations on books about creativity or exercises to keep the creative self alive will be greatly appreciated. 

Persepolis – Reading a graphic novel

One of the many things I am unduly critical about is graphic novels (or comic books.) I wasn’t very fond of either, as a child, when the only comic book I ever owned starred Donald Duck.

I recently read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a beautiful and touching autobiographical comic book. The author shows us the memories of her childhood and adolescence, in the form of simple illustrations, just like a child would. Originally written in French, it has two volumes (The Story of a Childhood & The Story of a Return) which are illustrated in a charming black and white. The story is set during and after the Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.
Brought up in Tehran, Marjane dreamed, as a little child, of being God’s Prophet and later, during the revolution, dressed up and pretended to be the likes of Che Guevara. While she grew up in a relatively independent and liberal family atmosphere, the world around her turned into something entirely different. The book deals with themes like war, discrimination, religion, politics; all from that little girl’s point of view. I never imagined a comic book could handle such a “grown-up” topic in such a “grown-up” way. You can’t blame me, though; I actually don’t know any one who reads comic books of any genre other than fantasy.

What I loved the most about the book, is that it captures a youngster’s perspective perfectly. I always think that when writing about his childhood, an author writes what he feels retrospectively (or what he thinks he must have felt back then.) Because of that, autobiographies tend to exaggerate a child’s capacity to express or understand emotions.

On the other hand, once you’re in your forties, twelve-year-olds and eight-year-olds all seem about the same. So some authors make their younger characters too, well, childish. This comic book displays the little girl’s innocence wonderfully – and without making her seem naive. And as the girl grows up, you grow up with her!
Now, I am not claiming that I am suddenly a fan of comic books about superheroes or Japanese animated characters with uncharacteristically huge eyes. I’m just saying, I’ll try not to be so judgmental the next time; because this particular comic book (Persepolis) is certainly one of my favourite books!

A 100 posts & yet another “Thanks”!

I was at, what I love to call “work” the other day, doodling away (along the margins of an article about Roald Dahl, which I was supposed to be reading) waiting for some real work to come along.

Unfortunately, and as I have already said before, I never did read much of Dahl. I was more of an Enid Blyton fan and progressed on to being a Harry Potter fanatic. So, if there’s one author I regret not reading before, more than Roald Dahl – it is Dianna Wynne Jones. The woman is a genius! After meeting characters like Christopher Chant and Wizard Howl Pendragon and after um.. ‘visiting’ the Moving Castle and the Parallel Worlds, Hogwarts loses a bit of its charm. I’m just saying. It’s a pity I never read her books before she passed away.

I am currently reading “Dogsbody”, written by Diana Wynne Jones in 1975. The god Sirius, the denizen of the Dog Star is punished for a murder he did not commit! He is banished to the earth, reborn as a puppy, to recover a mysterious Zoi (using which he is supposed to have attacked another “luminary”!) As Sirius struggles with his life as a dog, he also struggles with memories of a past as a luminary. Soon, this little dog sets out on an adventure, to hunt for the Zoi that will set him free!

Like all of Diana Wynne Jones’ books, this is a charming, wistful and magical tale, that keeps you involved throughout, with bits of humour here and there! I’m sure this will end up in my favourite fantasy books right alongside The Lives of Christopher Chant and Howl’s Moving Castle!!
The way I see it, I would not have read these books had I not started blogging. Or one of the much-too-discussed “Metro Reads” by Penguin India that I normally skeptically smirk at. Or YA authors like Holly Black and Suzanne Collins. Not that I particularly liked most, but hey, you can’t say you don’t like it till you try! I wouldn’t have given any fantasy author a chance over J. K. Rowling and I would have missed reading some really amazing books.
Phew! Did I mention this is my 100th post? Yay!! After spending a hundred hours thinking up a hundred different ways of making my hundredth post special – I realized that the more I think, the worse the post becomes! It’s just a number, anyway. So I wrote this – a thanks to the blogging world for giving me a new favourite author! Did I mention I LOVE blogging?

Duet – Illustration

Well, a duet doesn’t necessarily have to mean a pair of singers, right? It can also be just a pair.

My attempt at drawing the kind of thing I would rarely attempt to draw! I can point out many technical errors myself, but as this took only a matter of minutes, and as I was able to draw hands that actually looked like hands; have pity on me, and don’t point them out. That would be very nice!

I wish I had a scanner to scan stuff, than having to take photos all the time (I never realize where the light is supposed to be; behind, on top of, next to(?) the camera!) And then I have to edit the stupid thing with my even more awesome editing skills!!

Another Illustation Friday entry for ‘Duet’.

Toy Broom – Illustration

Last night, my mom scolded (read: screamed at) me for the umpteenth time about how messy my room is. Being as lazy as I am, I wish there was someone (other than my mother!) who could do my work for me.

When I was a kid, I used to love reading the Enid Blyton fairytales. When the children slept all the toys in the nursery came to life and played and held races and stuff. Or even that once you close a book, the characters in it come to life. It’s the kind of thing that you can’t possibly disprove, even though it’s obviously made up! I still love that ‘What if…’ feeling you get when you read fantasy fiction!

Like now, what if… when I’m all tucked up in bed and asleep, the brooms just came to life, just like the toys, and did all the tidying up for me!

For ‘Toy’ at Illustration Friday.

Autumn – Illustration

It is too hot now; you can feel the sun burning up your skin. I don’t feel like getting out of the house these days! And the nights are strangely cold and humid. It’s like a combination of the worst weathers possible. Weatherman on strike, maybe. I want some good ol’ climate back. Something pleasant like autumn, maybe. I can just picture it!

Leaves fall off the branches and swarm up around your feet, dry and crumpled. And it’s as if the earth is covered with a huge brown blanket. I love the sound of the leaves crackling under your feet as you walk, just as much as I love the smell of fresh paint, or the feeling you get when you tear paper! There is something very uniquely artsy about autumn. And the outside of your house; okay maybe not the ‘just outside’, starts looking like a picture right out of a fairytale!

An Illustration Friday entry after a long, long time – though it is a bit of a stretch with the theme. But works for me; of course, it’s the ‘them’ that it may not work for!

(The first image was borrowed from here)

“A doodle. I do doodle. You, too. You do doodle, too.”

I love to doodle. Every second of every minute of every day!

I love painting as well. But I guess it’s just too much effort for someone like me, specially when I could get just as much satisfaction from a pen and a piece of paper! And I can also avoid a scolding from my mom for accidentally painting the floor(oops!)

I’ve heard that doodling is one of the best ways to get your creativity flowing. I couldn’t agree more. Doodling helps me relax. I’ve gotten over the worst of “writers’ blocks” by doodling! One of my teachers had told me that doodling is like a warm up exercise before you draw anything. He always made us draw random patterns before moving on to the actual drawing; whenever we did that, our strokes ended up looking more gentle and natural!

Doodling has also kept me from falling asleep in lectures – all my school and college books are filled with doodles along the margins and on the last few pages! In fact, according to psychologist Jackie Andrade, doodling stops you from daydreaming, without affecting your performance on the main task. But that should be your last resort to improve concentration, mind you!

The best thing about it is there is no such thing as a “bad” doodle. Or a “wrong” one either. You don’t have to be artsy do be able to doodle! No one is going to tell you that the lines aren’t straight or the perspective isn’t right. To each his own.

As I’d mentioned before, in this post, I would love to be a professional doodler. Yep, that’s an actual occupation (Google this guy; Jon Burgerman). To doodle and get paid for it; who wouldn’t love that!?

(The title is a dialogue by Alyson Hannigan’s character in Buffy; a shy girl who rambles on nonsensical stuff when she’s caught unawares; kind of like me!!)

Tabula Rasa?

It’s been a long time, more than a month actually, since I posted anything. There’re two reasons for that; first, I’ve been very busy in a very long time, and second, I couldn’t think of anything to write. You can call it writer’s block – though it didn’t stop me from doodling about it!

I remember the reason I had started this blog, about four months ago. I remember why I had decided to call it Tabula Rasa! A lot has changed with me since I started writing this blog- not that I have actually turned from a reserved, likes-to-keep-to-herself kind of a girl into a social butterfly!! But I have turned into a much better version of me, and that’s good right?

I haven’t kept updating my blog – it hasn’t been much active over the past couple of weeks – but I’ll try to change that! I just thought it was worth writing that the reason that I started this blog, kind of worked!!

Where have all the sparrows gone?

I was sitting in my balcony today, when I noticed a sparrow perched on a wall of the house opposite to mine. I took out my sketchpad and made a quick sketch of him. Just as I was finishing he flew away.

I looked around to see if there were any other sparrows nearby; there weren’t. Then I realized that was the first sparrow I had seen in months, years, even. Where have all the sparrows gone? The bird that you would see everywhere when I was a child, the bird who had led its way into so many of my nursery rhymes – has vanished now. I remembered the story of how ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali developed an interest in birds when he came across a rare Yellow Throated Sparrow. It’s funny how the Common Sparrow is just as rare, now. And who is to blame, but us?

I sat there thinking of the many things that have changed around me in the short span of my life. There are few big trees around, and the houses are larger. There are less number of people on the street, only cars and bikes. There are less number of birds around my house, less chirping, very few of the butterflies that I loved to look at come here now. And we can owe it all to pollution.

Development happens when there is less green and more steel; when children stay glued to computers and mobile phones even in their early teens; when the noise of the traffic is more than the happy chirping of the birds in spring; when the air is filled with so much smoke that you keep your windows shut at all times; when the hills are slowly dug out to build cities and skyscrapers. I wonder what has happened to the world, in such a small time?

I would like to believe that the sparrows have flown off to a better place.

Tarzan? (Illustration)

…when Artificial Intelligence takes over the Fiction World…

Remember the scene in ‘Tarzan’, when Tarzan takes Jane’s hand and compares it to his – when he realizes they are the same kind? Remember when he is trying to learn to speak and he says, “Me, Tarzan…You, Jane”?
Remember ‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov?
Remember Joss Whedon?
Since this is my first attempt at an illustration, it took me some time. I even had a little issue with the way the robot is sitting – but then I decided: hey it’s a robot, he can turn just his head around without having to turn his body, can’t he?
But, while this is not the best I can do, I had a lot of fun doing it!!!
For “Artificial” at Illustration Friday