I'm back

Life changes so much after a long break. Suddenly it is like I had to manage a new job, new house, new resposibilities and it took time to settle down with the new old things. I haven't been doing much apart from work, cook, gym and meeting friends. All the painting and sketching kit was packed away in the darkest and the least accessed drawer in the study, until last week. 
My parents visited me and my dad got me a 1980's news paper supplement which had a big frame of a heroine of those days, he wanted me to sketch her. I immediately started off the sketch and here it is.

When we left to Brussels a year ago, we had left our tulsi pot at one of our relatives house and after returning we got it back but during this shifting business the edges of the pot was damaged. recently mom fixed it with some left over white cement. I had some left over pot paints and redecorated the tulsi pot. This coming monday is Tulsi vivah and the pot is all decked up like a bride before the wedding. 

And why did I have some left over pot paints?
I had been to a handicraft exhibition in Malleshwaram 2 years ago and had liked a pair of painted clay dolls there. After having spent on lot of junk items at the exhibition I had very limited cash and with that I could not have bought these dolls no matter how well I bargained. But I had no intention of leaving these adorable dolls. So I bargained with the vendor to sell me the similar pair of dolls which was freshly made and was yet to be painted. He agreed easily and I hand painted them at home.

BRU to BLR

After having cribbed endlessly about the weather , expenses and language problems faced during my stay in Brussels , now all of a sudden there is a change in the outlook since I'm counting down the last few hours to take off.   Seeing everything with 'graduation goggles' has definitely erupted a blast of mixed emotions about this place.

Brussels's love for a clean and green environment and save biodiversity is a thing to remember. There was this bird counting activity on one weekend, initiated by Brussels municipal council. we are supposed to keep munchies for birds outside the window and keep a watch and count the types of birds that visit. The collective statistics on this will be the approximate birds in Brussels. Coming from a country whose population is 17 % of the total world population it was hard to accept the fact that some countries do invest in activities such as bird counting. I cannot imagine doing the count of crows or pigeons in India. Reckon sparrows would be easier due to its depleting count.

Every year beginning of spring, a pair of peregrine falcons visit Brussels and nest on a tower of the Brussels cathedral. There a webcam has been setup so that the locals can get a glimpse of this rare birds raising the chicks. From the time the falcons are first sighted you can watch online live and follow the number  of eggs laid that year, hatching, feeding until the final take off. There are screens put up at the base of the cathedral for visitors to see this event. If a dog is run over on the road, the bloody body will be  left untouched and by the end of the day, the remains would have be bulldozed along the road with no traces.  Sadly this happens in my native country.

Most of the museums here have free entry on the first wednesday of every month. On one winter wednesday afternoon, after a museum visit, I was strolling by the open area near the museum   and was on a photo clicking spree, just like the group of fairer narrrow eyed Asians. An old man with a grocery bag was crossing this area and I watched him as he went near the asian group and stopped over to tell  them something and then started walking towards me. In my head all I could think was " Gosh!!Am I not supposed to click photos here?",        "Will he give a piece of his mind now? ", " does he hate Asians for crowding his walk area ? ". He came over and pointed at the museum building and  said " Today museum is free. it is good. go now".  And just like that I started to like Belgians and Belgium museums.

In the second week after arriving here, I had gone grocery shopping and was totally confused with all the products since everything was in dutch and french.  I wanted to pick up chicken and I knew it was called 'poulet'. But when I looked in the freezer section , it was stacked with different types of poulet. 'Cuisse de poulet' , 'poulet kip' etc. There came an old couple, aged in 80s,  who picked up some sort of poulet from the same section. With no staff in sight, I decided to ask this old couple to help me out. I greeted them in english and asked if the pack I had picked up  was actually of chicken leg pieces. Unfortunately they did not speak english and they stared blank into my face. I realized that and thanked them anyway and started searching for the staff. The old couple wanted to help me anyway and they  came over to me and tried to say that it was chicken. I knew it was chicken but was not sure as to which part of chicken and I could not tell them that anyway . seeing my confusion the old lady  handed over the basket she was carrying to the old man, bent her frail knees , flapped her outstretched arms while making the noise "Caca Cacaawww Cacaaawwww...." made a quick walk hither tither.  And I could not help but admire them. I was so overwhelmed by their gesture I smiled and nodded to show that I understood and thanked them profusely.  A lovely charade it was.

All the weather cribs are long forgotten and I surely have lots of good memories of my stay in Belgium and the travel trips to the nearby countries. 'Loss of pay' comes to an end as I write this and am so eager to get back to my home , work , friends, coconut based gravies, mangoes , jackfruits........  .. ... ..... 

Fashion illustrations

SilverRidgeStudio on etsy is one of my favourite shops. Love the way Cate has dabbled with water colours to depict fashion and I too tried my hand at some of them and it is definitely going to be hung on my wall at home.
Indian Bride

Ellen Von Unwerth is Cate Parr's favourite photographer and when I saw some of the photographs and  I too was enthused to make some quick sketches. 



More watercolour

Even after having cribbed a lot about Belgium and its language problems I still can't get enough. Our friend's daughter is a year old and they wanted to start teaching English alphabets to her. After carefully searching the english book store here found a chart of alphabets but all the 'is for' were weird unknown reference and definitely not the ones what we studied in India.  It was not  B is for Beer and C is for chocolate, since Belgium is famous for it, but surely not something that was easy for Indians. 
So I decided to make one for the little one, myself.  I had some A4 sheets and painted them with watercolour and coloured pencils.All I have to do now is to  stitch and hand bind it to make a handmade alphabet learning book. 
water colour on A4 plain sheet was a baaaaad idea and the paper crumpled. Let's see how long this lasts in her hands..:)



our garden backyard  

Luxembourg

Puranpoli / Holige / Stuffed sweet bread

VR recently mentioned that I would be returning to India as a better cook. And to think of it, yes, I have tried so many new recipes and I know what I'm good at and definitely know what VR likes. I recently got the craving to have some hot puran polis and immediately called up mom for recipe. Initially when I started to cook whenever I asked her for recipe I specifically ask for the detailed step as I would find a very simple seasoning very complicated. So even till date she explains me the same way but I hurry her up by completing her sentences and she gets angry ..."I will not tell you, you go search on your internet" ... ! And so I listen to her as she tells me the exact measurement, temperature,  colour changes, textures etc. And all I do is listen attentively. You can do multitasking and mom can do multitasking but when mom is telling  you something then you cannot to do multitasking. 


So here is the recipe: 


For the outer dough
all purpose flour /Maida :  1/2 cup
Wheat flour : 1/4 cup
Cream of wheat : 1/4 cup 
Oil: 3/4 cup
turmeric - 1 tea spoon
salt - 1/2 tea spoon
Sugar - 1 table spoon
water - 2/3 cup+


For the filling  
Chana dal / split chickpeas  -2/3 Cup
Toor dal   / Split yellow lentils -1/3 cup 
Sugar - 1.5 cups  
cardamom powder - 1/2 tea spoon


Procedure :
Cook the pulses together in a pressure cooker.


Dissolve salt, sugar and turmeric in water . 
Wheat flour is optional and the quantity can be replaced by more of all purpose flour. Knead into a soft ball same like  that of chapathi. Add 1/4 oil and again knead again for another 5 minutes. add the rest of oil on top and let it sit for half an hour.


Drain the water from the pulses and save the stock for making tomato rasam. Add sugar to the dry mixture in a heavy bottomed pan and heat it on low flame until all the moisture evaporates and the whole thing comes together like a sticky mass. The stuff actually loosens itself from the sides  and this is the indication to take it off heat. Add cardamom powder and mix well.


At this stage mom generally grinds the stuffing(without adding water) to get an even mixture. These days she uses the murukku press mold rather than the mixer to blend the stuffing. 


Make medium sized round balls of the stuffing and keep aside. apply oil on your palms and pinch out the outer dough, half the size of  the stuffing. Flatten it lightly and then place the stuffing inside and pull the sides all around it towards the centre. Press down slightly and then roll it flat with a rolling pin. Apply wheat flour/ maida while flattening. 

Transfer the rolled poli on to a hot griddle. once it gets golden brown spots then flip it. each side will not take more than 3 minutes. This should be dry roasted. 
A dollop of ghee on hot poli.!!! ahaaaa

Work area 

Roasting the poli

Serve Ubatti with ghee / sweet milk
Tips
1. You could add fresh grated coconut to the stuffing for a softer texture. add it while heating the cooked pulses. 
2. Toor dal is optional and can be replaced by chana dal. but toor dal makes the poli softer. 
3. The insides of the chana dal should be cooked well.  Mine did not cook very well and so the inner most part of the chana dal was still a bit hard. and since I do not have a mold or a mixer,  after heating the stuffing, I tried to mash it with a spoon. So I pressed it anyway and it cracked out of the outer covering in some places. 
4. The griddle should be medium hot. 

Run, mom.. Run!

Tools studied today,
1. Pen tool
2. Creating fractals
3. Paths  
4. Text around the path

Beginner Digital Art

Started and ended with CS3 only. no prior sketch was made. 

A friend with another friend's spectacles.
Dilwale Dulhaniya lejayenge


A mixed media artwork- pencil sketch, acrylics & CS3 edits

Started with just a rough sketch and acrylics and ended up with an outrageous portrait not worth uploading. So the stock taken on day 1 was quite useful and worked on it with CS3. And finally I am closing this project .Not a perfect one but am glad that pictures taken at various stages of development did help me save this work.
Acrylic with water medium - Day1

Acrylics & CS3 edits - Day2

Edited with adobe PS CS3 - Day 3


Acrylics

I spoke too soon about acrylics ,I guess, and the jinx has cast on...!
I overpainted and ruined my friend's portrait. Need to do some adjustments now to fix it.  I just couldn't get the arms and shoulders right and finally decided to make it abstract and finally discarded the plan.
Undoing in watercolour is soooooo easy.... :(

The only respite is that I had a saved copy where I had coloured 50% and what could be better than photoshop to fix and recolour. trying my hand digital painting again.

Digitally modified acrylic

Still WIP. Have to remove all the hardlines and do tonal adjustments. But I like it so far. A sense of relief that the whole thing is not destroyed. :)

More is less in watercolour and less is more in Acrylics

When I decided to dabble with colours, I chose to start with water colors as they are supposed to be easily 'undone' and activating the water colour is easy unlike acrylics. I have distanced myself from oils because of its slow drying property. Even though I had got myself a set of acrylics colours I never dared to play it on the expensive cold pressed sheets. Recently from the flea market, I got a 20 pages A4 size drawing sheets, which had the texture exactly like the cold pressed sheets, like a  for just 2 Euros and I tried my hand at acrylics and loved it a lot. Loved the way acrylics holds on to the paper and the rich strong effect it brings to the whole artwork.  Only that you have to be quick and plan your moves in advance since the paint dries too fast. There is so much more to learn but after these 3 starters I have learnt one thing for sure: More is less in watercolour and less is more in Acrylics. 

Bee and Blue rose

Lady with the orange rose 


WIP  - A friend
                    

Sleeping sides

Sunday nights are the worst of all nights because you don't get sleep early and the thought of going back to work early in the morning keeps your irk quotient on the ticker. As I was tossing and turning on the bed with eye-blinds on, VR was watching his mind-relaxing-episodes of 'Yeh jo hai zindagi'. The times of snuggle-sleep is long back gone as after five years of marriage we do not compromise on our sleep; we sleep on the respective half of the bed and mostly with backs facing each other, not because we are angry but because that happens to be our favorite sleeping side. That is when VR's phone alarm started to beep.  VR checked it and switched it off and said ''anniversary'' as he resumed watching the silly soap. Without stirring even a bit from my side, scared if my sleep would go off, I asked ''anniversaryaaaa...?  who's anniversary? ''.I did not get any reply from VR.  For birthday's you can set the alarm for 12 AM but for anniversary you do not generally do it unless it is your own anniversary and you want to remember it for your wife's sake to avoid all the nagging sessions .. "you do not remember any of the dates" "you do not love me anymore" etc etc. Jolted by his silence to my question I started to think what date it was in May that was important and while pondering over it I realised that it was the day of our engagement. I was awestruck by his thoughtfulness and a strange sense of guilt creeped in as I turned around to hug and wish him. I rolled over , grinning from ear to ear and whispered  " it is our engagement anniversary, Happy anniversary!" . For a moment there was silence and I thought I will get to hear a play back session from him .."You also do not remember any dates " ..blah blah...!  But there, his eyes grew larger as he saw me from the corner of his eyes and with a stiff neck and a wider grin he turned around and said "yaaaaaaa... our anniversary ...Happy Anniversary to you too... but actually the reminder was for my uncle and aunt's wedding anniversary!" ......!!!
And there we were  laughing out loud, realizing the accidental discovery. Sleeping sides were not of worry any more. I snuggled and made my way into his arms to watch the rest of 'Yeh Jo Hai zindagi' till we fell asleep.
  

Guide to Indians coming to Brussels - Part II

After living here and learning from the mistakes a re-look at the guide for Indians coming to stay in Brussels.
1.     Winter
We came to Brussels just at the onset of winter and it is quite a bad time to come to any European country. The initial enthusiasm to see and feel snow lasts only for a week or two before you start realizing the 'side-effects' of snow.  You better own good quality woollen wear and leather accessories to stay warm.  Woollen scarf, socks, thermal wear, leather gloves, cardigans/jackets.  You could buy all these at stores here too but they are very expensive. A good woollen cardigan for ladies can cost you from Euro 150 onwards. And sport shoes will definitely not work during winter here, no matter how fancy it is. You need to get yourself a pair of good leather boots if you intend to be outdoors during winter. It looks tempting to go out and feel the snow on your palms and the moment it touches you can feel it seeping in and soak you numb.
2.     Residence permit procedure
Call it unfortunate but It did take 5 months to get our residence permit and since our visa had expired a week after we landed here, we were practically stranded in Belgium and we could not travel out of country.  We consoled our desperate travel hearts blaming it on the weather and we pinned our hopes on spring. It is heard that the commune for 1000 Brussels  (Central area, Schuman and near by areas where the Pincode is 1000) is generally a slow one and it takes a long time before you hear anything from the commune for police verification and hence the delay in getting the residence permit. The steps involved in getting one.
a.      Within a week of landing in Brussels, you need to find the house and get the house agreement. To create the agreement you should give the agent 1 month rent as advance and also have 2 months rent deposited in the bank as guarantee. And to open a bank account you need to have your house agreement. You will be given the key to the house only when you create the bank guarantee.
b.     With agreement and other legal documents visit the commune early in the morning. The serpentine queue to get a token starts growing from as early as 7 AM although the counter starts issuing them only at 8.30 AM. You give  the documents and get an acknowledgement letter from the commune. Commune sends an intimation to the police for verifying the details.
c.      After some days you will get a letter from the local police of your area asking for you to visit the police station at a specified time. This step is skipped at times as sometimes police just sends the report to the commune without you having to visit them.
d.     After receiving the police report commune then sends a letter of appointment to your house address.
e.      You meet the authority at the specified appointment and based on how much you are ready to pay the time taken to send the residence card is decided.
                                                             i.      35 Euros for a normal processing. It could take minimum of one month
                                                           ii.      150 euros for fast processing. The card will be posted within 3 working days
                                                        iii.      200 Euros for super fast processing. The card will be posted next day  itself.

3.     Travel within Belgium 
a.      The Belgium train transport SNCB is quite good and you have packages to local sightseeing/family/adventure based on your interest levels.
Caves, beaches, adventure sports etc are some of the category. It works out very cheap since the price includes the to and fro train travel and entry to the major attractions in the town of visit.  
b.     Museum entries are free on first Wednesday of every month. Royal museum of fine arts and the Japanese tower & Chinese pavilion are worth a visit.
c.      Keep checking the http://www.brussels.be/ website for any upcoming events. We got Atomium entry for half the price on feb 14th as it was the anniversary of its completion. Buy one get one free.
4.     Travel to nearby countries 
a.      Thays, eurostar are classy super fast trains but very expensive to travel in unless you book the tickets atleast 2 to 3 months in advance.
b.     SNCB trains are what you will resort to if you do not plan in advance. They connect to most of the well popular destinations at much cheaper rates but they are very slow. Ex: Thalys connects to Amsterdam from Brussels in just 2 hours where as SNCB can take upto 3.5 hours. 
c.      Eurolines is bus service. If you have the time and patience then can opt for this service.
d.     www.inbag.org is an Indian association in Ghent which organises tours around Europe at a very reasonable rate. You can opt to be a member of the association.
For all travels I check tripadvisor  first. It gives a comprehensive understanding of the destination, hotels, B&Bs, tips and most importantly reviews. 

5.     Shopping:
a.      The shops can put up sales only in the month of January and June and you can bag huge discounts on products. However in some shops the leftover from the sale-months are dumped in the corner rack of the shops and if you hunt you might get some good stuff.
b.     Flea markets are held at Midi and clemenceau on Sunday mornings(6 AM to 2 PM). Fresh vegetables, fruits, Mediterranean specials like variety of olives and dry fruits, meat, sea food, second hand goods etc. There are other flea markets all through the week in different parts of Brussels. Antiques, paintings, vegetable markets etc.

6.     Things to get from India 
a.      Pressure cooker set
b.     Rolling pin (for making rotis)
c.      Pair of tongs (making phulkas)
d.     A pair of pliers (Pakkad)
e.      Small deep pan for seasoning
f.       Tea vessel with a lid
g.     Nail cutter
h.     Mortar & pestle
i.       Strainer
j.       Set of Tupperware boxes for carrying tiffin/lunch

Ladies special 
Plucker (for Eye brows. Parlours are @&*# expensive). you can find wax strips for eyebrows here.

Although you get all the above mentioned items here too they might be very expensive.

7.     Notes on food
a.     Europe is known for its farm fresh cheese and butter. Try different brands and get to know them.
b.     Best salted butter I have tried so far : Beurre D’Isigny. Others are chimay,president, kerrygold, carlbourg etc
c.      Butter for making ghee:  Rochefort (blue pack which is unsalted).
Look for butter made from milk (Beurre de lait). And nowhere on the pack you should find ‘Sel’ or ‘Doux’ (meaning salt in French and dutch respectively). Any cooking butter made from milk and which is not salted can be used for making ghee
d.     If you are a vegetarian then before buying cheese check the ingredients on the pack. If it says it contains ‘Ouef’(eggs) or ‘Animale’(animal) then you might want to think over. I have read about how some cheese is made using rennet and ever since then I always ensure that I read the ingredients very carefully.
e. The concept of drinking water from the tap is quite alein and my hygiene soul repels even to take a sip. So we buy bottled water from the stores. 
f.  A trolley bag to get groceries is very much recommended and can cost you from 7 to 10 Euros. 
g. Mixer : you can get a makeshift mixer with 2 jars  for 15/- at the clemenceau/midi flea market. there are two types of mixers available One with all plastic and two jars and the other one with plastic base and a glass jar.  We bought the first one. Though It does not look sturdy it is good enough for light grinding. I usually make ginger garlic paste, coconut chutney and other masala powders in the small jar. I use the big jar for making dosa batter.  But recently I used it for grinding  parboiled rice as the recipe called for it and ended up spoiling the mixer. 


Click here for part 1 

Swimming whimsies

Swimming is a very good exercise, everyone says, a must know thing in life, a life saving and weight reducing talent.  I wasted the first 20 years shying away from swimsuit and the next 5 years feeling I that I will never need to know to swim, I can always manage with a life guard. The next 2 years I whiled away thinking of buying a swimsuit  and the sheer laziness delayed the whole retailing. In the recent years there is this great urge to learn to wade in water, an urgency like if I don't know it then I might not survive. it could be also a way to shed those extra kilos I have put on. 


After trying yoga, aerobics, treadmill and walking  I am resorting to swimming to cure weight problems though I know the root problem here is nothing to do with the way I burn calories but the regularity of burning and the way I intake those calories. I have put on more weight around the waist and there is no life growing around close by, it is just thick adipose tissues spread over layers like double sandwich. It is spreading like tumour across my thighs, arms, neck and face. 


 I have stopped going on long walks, exercises- yoga as directed by Ram dev Baba in his CD "yoga for obesity / Motape ke liye"  , quite irregularly, and eating more and more of the fresh european farm produce- farm chicken.  I realized that I'm an emotional eater, I tend to eat when I'm sad or bored even though the neurons do not give any indication of hunger nor does the stomach growl when I binge on food.


With a swimming pool just few steps away from home and lot of friends who knew swimming volunteered to teach me to swim ,I had no other excuse but to set aside the   inhibitions and dive into the chlorine water. Once in the water, I had different problems to face. I have myopia and I wear spectacles for a clear vision and while I'm in the pool the glasses will remain in the warm dark enclosure of the changing room.  So I have to be very close to the instructor friend of mine to see what she is asking me to do. Apart from vision problem, I have ear problems too. I get ear pains if water tunnels near the drums and hence I am obliged to wear ear plugs, also a fear that I might get ear fungus like I had got when I was a kid. So with these conditions I am just a deaf and blind girl and it becomes very difficult for the instructor as well as for me to comprehend the gestures. 


So I have one solution to tackle one of the above problems. I will get a LASIK surgery done so that way I can atleast have a good vision and will have to tackle only the hearing problem when trying to swim. 


But to think of it, they say, if you are not able to do something right then break down the problem and then attack it, If I do that here I will end up with lot more problems and more dependencies and to attack all those it might take years. So not always does breaking the problem work, you need to just ignore the side problems and attack the original main problem and after all others seem redundant and negligible.  

I dream of colours

Spring sure is a great time in Europe. Lovely tree blossoms, bright colorful bulbs and all the exotic blooms  brings a sense of freshness and joy. For having lived in a tropical country all my life spring did not really make a lot of difference and neither did I appreciate the 12 hours of daylight, which I spent away playing with the kids from the neighbourhood. For me the season 'Spring' was only in text books. Only now I can understand all the fuss and noise about spring and its beauty. No wonder 'Spring' has been an inspiration for so many poets and all through my schooling I remember having to learn some of the spring poems and sonnets by-heart. The poem by William Wordsworth, "I wandered lonely as a cloud", beautifying the golden daffodils is quite a memorable one. Being familiar with all the usually grown Indian seasonal flower plants like jasmine, rose, hibiscus,lotus,lilly etc, daffodils was quite a new for ears and I was quite fascinated by the bunch of yellow waving daffodils. 


I saw a sea of yellow daffodils lined up along the streets in Antwerp and all I remembered was William wordsworth. 
Daffodils stretched in the never ending line

Daffodils along the streets in Antwerp

Daffodils tossing its head in sprightly dance. Held the base of the stem to get a steady shot.  


I dream of colors
I painted this today. Splashed all the colours from the palette and still feel that it is not enough. 


  

Chinese Sparrow

Trying to keep myself occupied while waiting for the match to start.
Referred this tutorial for doing this one. Using up my pre washed sheet for this one. The sheet is a bit buckled , yet to straighten it out and I am so eager to upload it too.. (:D).


After the match started I could not concentrate and I had started overpainting.
So Stopping it right away!!! huh!

India at WAR

You play with people when you want to socialize. If you hate somebody and do not want them in your social network why even play with them!


Watching India & Pak semi finals of Worldcup 2011 and everytime I see the rivals clad in green all I can think is the 26-11- Taj attack, J&K war of 1965, kashmir pandits, kargil war, partition, Gandhiji. All comes in a flash and I hate the fact that India is playing against them.  It is a matter of India's pride and prestige at stake here. Also by wanting to win against them in a sport, we want to send a message to them that we have the upper hand. 
I hope and pray that India wins here.

fastest painting

No reference, no memories, I just wanted to paint something and I dipped the wide flat brush into a mix of colours and made this.Hardly took 10 minutes including the setup time. Now I know what to do if I forget to buy a greeting card for an occasion. Splash some colours and write up some nice wordings serve with warm hugs! :)





Antwerp

A beautiful port city adorned with sparking diamond stores like a bride decked in diamond accessories, a nice calm river side, shopping alley with huge buildings and big discounts. Ah! strolling through the city was a joyous feeling.

There are two types of trains that can take you to Antwerp.
IC- intercity are fast trains with limited stops.  duration : 40 mins
IR - interregional trains with many stops and is slow. duration: 1 hour.

We reached the Antwerp station at 11 AM and we visited the Info centre at the station to collect the maps. there were lotsa places of our interest. The station itself is one of the must see places as it has 4 levels with escalators connecting each. the huge tiled arch glass roof lights up the entire open area. The architecture of the building is a must see and the view is magnificent.

Stadsfeestzal
Once outside the station, we walked past the diamond stores and reached the main shopping street- Meir and entered the grand Stadsfeestzaal, shopping arcade. in the open area in the centre of the building is an eatery place- La Place.
We walked towards the grote market of antwerp and saw the giant hand in stone representing the Antwerp's "hand". Curbing a lot of temptation to enter the shops we walked straight into the grand place, crossed the cathedral and reached the triangular open area where a huge monument representing Brabo throwing the giant's hand into the Scheldt river, surrounding this are the guildhouses.
Guildhouses
Along the banks of river Scheldt 
 You can take a ride around the city on the horse carriages starting from there.  We walked further north west and saw the river side. With the onset of spring it was quite a view to take in but I'm sure in summers it will be even wonderful with the sun glazing up on the river and all trees full with fresh leaves. strolled along the river side for a while, sat on the bench and refilled ourselves with some cookies and coke.

We walked further and crossed the river through a 500mtr long tunnel built 32 meters below the river. there are 2 levels of steep escalator you need to take before you reach the beginning of the tunnel. View of Antwerp standing on the other side of the river  is beautiful.

We walked back through the tunnel and walked past the KBC tower, the farmer's tower, the first skyscraper of European continent and again passed the shopping street of Meir. and this time couldn't resist and went inside and got deals on some items. Happy and content, we headed back to the magnificent station of Antwerpen and headed back home.

 A day trip to Antwerp was excellent and we could cover only 40 % of it. Yet to see the Diamond district, Zoo, aquarium and port.  So another saturday +sunny day  >>>>.Antwerp!!!

Afghan

There are some things that leave a profound impression on you for ever and you always remember it even if you have seen it only once. The  photograph of an Afghan lady with light green eyes which was on the cover page of NatGeo magazine, taken by Steve McCurry, is one of those images. And when I got myself my charcoals to try my hand at charcoal paintings, the first thing that struck me was this image. I did not refer the image then and attempted it and here it is. 
In the whole box of charcoal sticks, there were hard ones and soft ones but I being myself, hurried and saw only the soft ones and used them to make this sketch. I was not sure if I could get the lightness of the eyes in a bichrome painting more importantly the emotions from the original,mix of scared, shy, angry feelings of the girl.  Since I could not get all those emotions , I wanted to deviate the attention a bit from the portrait and hence drew a heart with a dagger. I do not have the kneaded eraser to work on charcoal as with that I intended to show a pigeon flying away. Well, let's see.. With the travel plans starting now I don't want to concentrate more on charcoal. :)   
This is more like a two dimensional portrait without much depth. need more practice.:( 

Got the license to travel.... yaaaaaaaaa!

Finally after 5 months of waiting I finally got my Belgian residence permit and that means I can travel out of Belgium. And I have a huge list of places to visit before I return to India and the planning starts now...;) 


We came to Begium a week before our  visa was expiring and since we did not have the the multiple entry visa type and since our visa had expired, we were confined to this state unless we chose to back and not return again. the whole process of registering at the commune for a residence permit is quite painful NOT worth going through again now as I already have the permit...yyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy!
celebration with this vin rouge :) 
Aquarelle on my last sheet of cold pressed paper. I am actually equivocating if I really need more paper or should just save up the money for one of my travels. It's a hard choice to make between both the things I love to do. But I'm sure I will have an excuse to buy more sheets considering that I will not be travelling on weekdays so as I wait for the weekends, I definitely neeeeeeeed(mind that this is a 'need' and not a 'want') some source of entertainment. 

Train

Brugge is an hour's journey from Brussels by train. Generally for long distance travels I carry a book to read this time I took along the sketch book with me with an intention to sketch the view outside only to realize that the train moves too fast to register any frame. So I tried sketching the insides of the train. Not very neat but it does look like an inside section of a vehicle!  

Landscape

         After waking up from a post lunch nap taken on the couch in the hallway, there is always a weird uneasy feeling.Even a strong concoction of ginger and tea leaves just manages to go down the oesophagus without stimulating or activating the cells that make you feel active.The only way out is to go out and take some fresh air.
         I and my dad loved to go on the road less travelled, keep going without any particular location in mind and then traverse the way back the same way or apply sense of direction and head back home. I felt this was the best way to know the local area and also develop a good sense of direction. I have learnt to 'read' the atlas just like any other novel , solely because I would watch my dad do it. When I was a kid, I loved to go through the last section where squared sections with India map had triangles, dots, squares all scattered on it. The locations of  ores , refineries, river, railways maps, airways and others. I could not locate any place but would categorize the map as north, south, east and west India and fun, while at it.
         Once, as a school assignment we had to map all the rivers of India. My dad made me go through the reference book and asked me to make a note of all the major rivers first and then closed the book and asked me to draw all of them. without the reference it was just impossible for me to draw them on the plain dotted map. I new  the exact location and length of only some of the rivers like Kaveri and Narmada as there were slightly sloped  lines across the map , one in the south  and the latter middle of the map to just below the Kutch. With his watchful eyes just hovering above the pencil and the map, and the fear of being knocked* on the scalp, it was very easy to get the shaky wavy line of the river. I confidently started the line for Narmada from starting from somewhere below the kutch on west coast till the middle of the map and looked up for his consent.  When he said 'No! Draw again'  my ego was hurt. I drew again the same way with some additional curves and shakiness and raised my head. He said NO! Now my ego had disappeared and the confidence was shaken and If I were a cartoon  then my scared eyes could be seen above the scalp, scared when I will be knocked. This went on for a while before he got frustrated and played carrom. He said river always merges with the sea/ocean and not the other way round. So all I had to do was draw the same shaky line starting from the middle of the map to the point below the  kutch!!  Though it was forbidden to draw the river the wrong way my confidence was back stronger as I knew the location of the river Narmada.
Last year when I had visited my native place, Sagar, a small town in the malnad region of Karnataka, I and my dad happened to see this beautiful scenic place nearby. The picture and myversion of this memory in water colour is below.

*knocked -  while tutoring, for any wrong doing, he sometimes hit the head, with his fingers, as if the head was a striker on a carrom board. It was not painful but sharp enough to get the mental fluid tension to go score high.




Happiness costs 585$ !

Whoever said money cannot buy happiness, I tend to disagree here.
I don't know how housewives sit at home all day long; If we have long weekend and idling the extra day at home , I get utterly bored and I will be looking forward for work. It's an another thing that towards the end of the week I obviously crave for the weekend. now with sabbatical, I try to keep myself busy here with browsing, sketching, painting, movies, television and cooking but for how long can I engage myself in these activities. I need a great deal of self motivation to do anything that doesn't please or interest me and I oblige at times only to get disappointed and feel low. a year back I had the frenzy to own a SLR camera because everybody was having it. Though I hardly ever tried to learn the SLR jargons and its complexities, yet I wanted to own one. And with so much time at hand these days it was a good time for me to learn the professional photography and finally VR got me my first Digital SLR. A good beginner DSLR with lots of features. I have gone through a lot of tutorials, videos and sites and learnt all the SLR glossary/terminology; all I need is to go out and get that started!
with the new DSLR, VR has bought me happiness.:)

Cats and gals

Today was a 'so-so' day with 2 OK sketches and 2 bad ones .  2 cats and 2 ladies. Uploading all to showcase the learning curve. the curve doesn't seem to go better at all. Spent around 15 - 20 mins on each and killed the afternoon nap time.
1. windows desktop wallpaper with kitten sleeping on a guitar.  Initially decided to watercolour it but the pen with which I was drawing, smudges and is not water proof. So made this one with just the pen. The kitten doesn't look very innocent in this as it was in the original. yet overall it looks neat. 

2. Had saved this tiger pic for one of my concept sketch but you all know, I have a great backlog of such concept sketches. this was another model for today's sketch.


3. Had sketched this girl with the scarf sometime back and todayI was all geared up to do a watercolor on to a sketch done with pen, I redid this girl in the pen and played on it with colours and I had vanished her innocent, sweet and she looked weird.  

4.  Was trying to make a sketch of a friend and I overdid the eye lids and the cheek bones and decided to stop it.  I do not want to tag the friend as this looks crude and does no justice to her pretty face. But I really liked the top she is wearing. 


Conclusion: 
I'm probably better at drawing animals than human portraits. 
But again, this is learning so all sorts of sketches are self-appreciated. 



Far east museums

Brussels has around 100+ museums out of which I have shortlisted my favourite ones which I want to visit atleast once. First wednesday of every month is free museum entry and I plan the day out well in advance to make use of the 'free' entries. This time I went to this   museum called "museum of the far east" with a friend who I had met in Brussels. This museum  has a Chinese pavilion and a Japanese tower. The dark grey coloured wooden supports inside reminded me of a typical ancient Kerala house, the water body right outside the Japanese tower was like a country side backyard in a typical south Indian village and I remembered my grandfather's place in Golgod. Phew!!! 
Visitors are allowed only till the first floor of the Japanese tower and the inside walls along the staircase are lined up with Japanese stained glass paintings. Since no description was in english it was quite disappointing to just see the displayed items. The entry to Chinese pavilion was hidden and we had to take 2 rounds around the structure to find the entrance, which of-course was worth the search. the whole structure inside was painted in golden shade with huge mirrors and sculptures. The first floor had themed rooms painted in the same shade of the china-ware displayed inside the room. And one of the rooms had just different tea pots and just beautiful collection. The visit would have been very disappointing if not for the beautiful chinaware. 


Best part :
We can take pics inside the museum
China ware was fantabulous and a treat to the eyes.


Sad part: 
All descriptions are either in French or Dutch. Anything in English would have been very well appreciated.  
The museum itself is quite far and the direction boards are very confusing. Even google maps shows incorrect tram-stops.  


Chinese Pavilion
View of Japanese tower at the entrance

Stained glass artwork
Loved the bamboo and Geese on this urn.

Japanese porcelain artwork
Japanese paintings on Japanese porcelain
Japanese tower- Ceiling 
Showcase

Chinese paintings  on Chinaware
Eye catchy Chinese lanterns inside the museum cafetaria




Chinese Pavilion

Light fixtures

tea pot

Pargola 
Look who  is here ? peeking pigeon


And I got the pigeon framed

It was a nice bright sunny day

And I was there! :)

And here we are! :)

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