Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My First Design Steps

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I have been working on honing, and in some cases, learning new graphical skills in the past few weeks. So, I have been extensively watching Adobe Illustrated tutorials and working on my existing Photoshop knowledge and basically trying to get a hang of the software beyond basic image editing and digital painting.

From a beginner’s point of view, the world of graphical design is quite vast… at times intimidating and there is no limit to creative options. One could branch out into any form of graphical design… illustrations or web-design or logo & advertising and so much more. At the same time, one does not need to limit the options to just these.

What I have experienced in the process of my baby steps in to this graphical world is that technical knowledge is quite secondary. What is needed is a passion for seeing the immense possibility in the mundane. Everything around you can inspire you, be they objects or situations or emotions. And almost all of it can translate into images… and a combination of these images can illustrate bigger ideas.

I also realized that developing a personal style in your artwork is important… and as soon as you are comfortable with the design processes, it is a good idea to chalk out a signature style… something that ties your artwork to you like no watermarking can. Being inspired by existing artwork is fine… but if you can infuse it with your vision then you are making it your own.

Some of the basic concepts any would-be designer needs to understand are… colour, form, and light. These three elements combine in different ways to produce all kinds of artwork.

These 3 elements influence our daily life in ways we don’t immediately notice… but it is inherent in our behaviour. They can influence your thoughts in a sub-conscious way. Some of the imagery formed with a combination of these elements become instantly recognizable and attached to the idea behind it that the separation of the two becomes almost impossible. For example, the cross and Christianity.

Even though it is said that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder… achieving a good balance between the three elements of colour, form and light is almost always a sure way to create a striking composition which would largely be considered beautiful. Though, it is not always possible to get that perfect balance… one can always find a middle ground were the trade-offs aren’t glaring and the result would still be a grand success. The resulting artwork may be complex or charm with its simplicity… but, it would create an impact. The levels of complexity depend on how the imagery would be used… simple imagery works for logos and icons; an illustration would require more detailing and so on.

One of the first projects I did was a head-on jump into creating a logo for a friend… for a made-to-order pastry website, one that specializes in cakes and cupcakes. My technical knowledge at the time of creating the logo was nil. I did not even use a vector-based program to create the logo… because I did not know how to use one. I made the logo in good old pixel-based Adobe Photoshop.

The only points I considered for the logo were that it had to be simple, have a warm and cosy, inviting feel to it and it had to be hand-drawn to give it that personal touch which is what the idea behind personalized cakes is. I would like to think that I achieved at least some of what I set out to when I finished the logo. Here it is…

I chose some nice pastel, cakey colours that hint at yumminess and simple lines and curves to create a stylized double-storeyed cake with some very simple decorations. I chose a simple, yet whimsical type-face to create that hand-piped illusion for the name of the web-site and complemented the logo with a matching colour-scheme for the background.

I did make more than one version of the logo… with minor changes.

What I liked about my own logo was that it was simple enough to be used in different sizes and easy on the eye to be used as part of a larger canvas… like an element in a background image for the website.

I would like to thank the Barrettos (Cajie & Priscilla) for letting me design the logo for their website. Here is a link to the yummy stuff Priscilla makes:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy Diwali! (2012)

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Today is Diwali... an auspicious day.

And I thought, what better day to try something new... so here it is... my first completely manual shot on the DSLR.

I used a diya (lamp) propped on a pearl bracelet in front of one of those optical-fibre lamps.
My flame is all blurry... hope one of the experts can help me out... @ 1/6s, f/8, ISO 800

And here is a Diwali greeting with my personalized wishes to everyone...

Happy Diwali!

May the charm and sparkle of Diwali
forever light up our lives...

The brilliant smiles and tinkling laughter,
The myriad hues of rangoli,
The sweetness of mithai,
The joy of togetherness...
May this Diwali infuse all these into our lives...
Today and always!

-- Surya Murali

Monday, November 12, 2012

More World Records

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In my previous post, I accounted how I have been lucky to be part of a team that entered the Guinness Book of World Records. Today’s post is about more world record-breaking feats… albeit I am not personally involved with them, but they are special to me for they are from my home away from home.

On 10th November 2012, Kuwait celebrated 50 years of the Kuwaiti constitution and what a celebration it was. Being away from Kuwait I missed experiencing the whole thing first hand… but, I have been eagerly following every news link and YouTube video related to the event.

Kuwait celebrated the milestone with a mind-blowing fireworks’ show that lasted over an hour… and the whole shebang cost a whopping KWD 4.1 million (~USD 15 million). The show was not merely an hour of fireworks… but included laser shows, 3D image projection, large kites, floating dragons and lanterns and all this spread over the coastal stretch of Gulf Road.

I was lucky that two of my friends, Matt and Cajie, both avid photographers and adventurists were in Kuwait and they have taken some amazing pictures and videos of the event. They braved the impossible traffic and took extra efforts to get the best possible vantage points to set up their gear and record the amazing show… which in its brilliance and extravagance broke some 7 world records. One of the new records created was the use of 77,282 firecrackers.

I included one each of the amazing photos these guys clicked… as a teaser to what you would find in their blog and flickr accounts. :)

Copyright - Mathew Jacob

Copyright - Cajetan Barretto

And the rest can be found here…
Mathew Jacob (His blog)
Cajetan Barretto (His Flickr Account)

Here are some of the other pics of the event I found online… Credits are on the pics.

A few videos of the event...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

World Record Week

The entrance to the pooram grounds (clicked by my brother)

The last week has been mighty hectic. It was also loads of fun. And I got myself in to the Guinness Book of World Records. Yeeaah!

To be a bit more precise… me and around 2700 other ladies literally danced our way into the record books. The feat was enabled by the Mumbai Pooram foundation which organizes a yearly Arts & Cultural festival, the largest of its kind outside Kerala in Bombay. This festival is based on lines similar to the temple festivals (pooram) of the state of Kerala… the most famous of the poorams being the Thrissur Pooram held on the temple grounds of Vadakkunathan Kshetram with the temples of Parmekkavu Bhagavathi and Thiruvambady SriKrishna participating. Although the main deity of the Thiruvambady temple is Lord Krishna, the deity participating in the pooram is Thiruvambady Bhagavathi. Bhagavathi is a representation of the Hindu goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva (the deity of the Vadakkunathan temple.)

Though, the Mumbai Pooram is a celebration of the pooram culture of the temples of Kerala… it is not a religious festival. It is a showcase for the art and culture of Kerala and a platform to unite the Malayalis who have chosen to live their lives outside Kerala. It is a festival that brings the colour and pageantry of the vibrant pooram right in to their busy city lives.

This year, the major attraction of Mumbai Pooram was the world record attempt by 2700 female dancers performing the Kaikottikali / Thiruvathirakali dance art of Kerala. This form of dance is performed by women on the occasions of Onam or Thiruvathira. The dance is performed with the lasya (beauty and grace) element dominating the movements and expressions of the dancers. The typical formation for the dance is a circle of women around a nilavillakku (a ceremonial brass lamp) or a pookalam (a floral design) or a combination of both. The hand movements are languid and the bodies sway in a fluid motion in clockwise and / or anti-clockwise directions. The rhythmic movements of the dancers are given more importance than the hand mudras.

On the 9th of November 2012, a bevy of around 2700 ladies gathered at the KDMC grounds in Dombivli to perform this graceful dance in a special, never attempted before numbers. We had the Guinness Book Of World Records’ officials presiding over the event to ensure that the dance met their precise standards to ensure a place in the record books. The performance was scheduled for 6:30 PM and all the ladies had reached the venue by 4:30 PM, decked in the traditional Kerala attire consisting of off-white handloom cotton sarees or set-mundu with gold brocade borders and red silk blouses, with hair tied up in buns adorned with fragrant jasmine blooms, with kaash-maala / lakshmi-maala (a long necklace made of gold coins) and gold bangles, earrings and anklets.

After a long wait of about one and a half hours whilst which we were served cutting chai, the Guinness officials arrived to start taking a head-count of the dancers. Arranging 2700 dancers to be counted within the grounds when it was already choc-a-bloc with spectators might not have been an easy task… though the organizers could have done a much better and faster job if they had tried a bit harder. The dancers ended up waiting until 8:45 PM for the officials to finish counting them… all this time, we did not have a place to sit and were standing barefoot on the gravely ground. Let me tell you, it is not a pleasant experience to be standing without any food except a few Parle-G biscuits for about 5 hours… with the performance still looming ahead. Quite obviously, with the kind of exhaustion that had set in a few girls fainted… and I think one of the girls could not even be part of the performance. After the officials counted us… we were guided into the formation which took another half hour. Finally by 9:15 PM we were all ready in concentric circles, 18 in number.

The Guinness officials had informed us that any dancer who gave up before 5 minutes of dancing or who rested for over 5 minutes while dancing would be disqualified from the record attempt and their count deducted from the total. It was a scary prospect because the 5 long hours had exhausted the women… some of whom were really old and all of whom were above 13 years of age. Once, the guru-vandanam started, we were infused with a bit more life even though the limbs of most of us were too stiff with the waiting. When the singers started the song… all pains and aches and stiffness was forgotten and we all danced… and danced with as much perfection as we could muster. The performance lasted some 20 minutes… and by the end of it we all took a bow full of hope and anticipation… which later became a bow of triumph as we were informed that we indeed made it into the record books… the largest Kaikottikalli performance in the world.

Since, I was one of the dancers, I had to leave the photography to the professionals. Here is a lovely pic of the formation just before the dance started taken by freelance photographer Veeraj Nair (you can see more awesome pics at his blog.)

That's me!

Here are a few pics of the event my brother clicked.

The Vashi group... can anyone spot me?

A decorative gopurams structure which made it into the Limca Book of Records

Waiting for the Guinness Officials

The gopurams starting to light up

Standing in queues to be counted

The ground being prepared for the formation

The gopuram now completely illuminated.

Still waiting as the head-count nears completion.

The dance

The dance... continues

A formation showing unity.

The final bow.

In preparation for the event, we had daily rehearsals. Small groups of women from various localities gathered at convenient locations to practice the dance on a daily basis for the last few weeks. Our group was the Vashi group and had about 70 women in it. On 4th November 2012, there was a rehearsal at the venue which saw some 1500 of us attending. A few pics from the rehearsal.

A snapshot from the Times Of India

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Radha Couldn't Care Less!

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So, some nincompoop(s) with a lot of time on their hands and nothing better to do in spite of calling themselves an NGO decide to do something that is actually going to affect the lives of millions of people in a positive way... they file an FIR against some Bollywood types (Karan Johar and Gauri Khan) for calling Radha 'sexy' in some idiotic movie (Student Of The Year)! 
I was being sarcastic if someone didn't get it... though, there's nothing sarcastic about the movie being idiotic!
Also, personally the said song doesn't appeal to me... but I am not going to file an FIR because a song gives me a headache!

I find it pathetic that they are even bothered by the song... I mean, if they didn't like it then why give it this publicity?

My second issue with it is that... it is fine to say Radha looks like an elephant when she walks... that is poetry (apparently) and acceptable but calling Radha 'sexy' is a criminal offence and "hurts Hindu sentiments"? From when did 'Sexy' become a derogatory term?
Though I can't remember the exact poem where Radha was called an elephant... I can assure you she has been called one by some famous Hindi poet. 

Third and most important issue as far as I am concerned.... The priorities in some people's lives are appalling! They are concerned about a mythological character Radha who may or may not have existed when so many real, living women are being ill-treated throughout the country in so many abhorable ways! 

I am sure Radha, if she did exist, couldn't care less about what nonsense songs are being written about her while her sisters are being treated like crap. She was quite mature and open minded from what I have read.

Link to the original article

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Lazy Promotion!

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Did I tell ya'll that I got myself a new camera... a Nikon D5100. Yes, finally a DSLR.
Well, I am just learning how to use the camera... by trial and error, of course. The books about photography can wait... :)

I started taking some shots with stuff lying around my house... and thought I need to do something that would satisfy my yearning for the desert... I miss Kuwait.

Here is a link to the post...  and below is a sneak preview...

Adventures of a Gilded Camel

The second set of pics I took is a dreamscape... of fairytales and princesses...
The post is here and the sneak-preview follows...

The Princess Diaries

And here is an exclusive. something I haven't posted on my other blog... yet! :D

Little Teddy is in love... Again!

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