In February, I went to India for 2 whirlwind weeks! As my last visit had been 26 years ago, I was long overdue for another stay. And wow! As expected, the country once again delighted and astonished me, and left me with the sense that a lifetime wouldn’t be enough to experience all of India’s wonders. In the meantime, here are some sketches from my travels. Although I became reacquainted with watercolour (the traveling artist’s friend), our hectic itinerary did not allow much time for staying in one place to absorb and create. That will be the next trip’s focus. Enjoy!
First stop, Mumbai:
Clockwise: Mumbai architecture and cityscape, trying on saris in a Fort district clothing store, and street performer.
Backwaters boat tour, Cochin
Kathakali dance: Cochin, Kerala
Tamil Nadu: Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
27 species spotted by my birdwatching spouse, who pointed these out to me.
I had the pleasure of spending the first 2 weeks of October in the beautiful Tuscan countryside at La Macina di San Cresci, a wonderful artist residency near the town of Greve in Chianti.
At the end of my stay, I presented my recently completed works, and those in progress, to the local community. You can view the recording on YouTube . Note: Captions are available in English and Italian : Select English(Canada) or Italian from Settings|Subtitles/CC).
Check out my post below for more details!
At La Macina di San Cresci
This was my third visit, and once again this place gave me a welcome pause from daily life that allowed me to reflect on my upcoming projects and plan their execution. With full days at my disposal, I was able to fully enjoy creative exploration without time constraints and life’s usual distractions.
The peaceful setting and lack of schedule at La Macina provides an ideal environment for artists to grow new ideas: Indeed, it was here, during a previous visit, that I created my first “Animalesque” drawing, which has now grown into the theme of an upcoming animation. Stay tuned!
Next animated work: A walk around San Cresci
During my previous visit in 2019, I interviewed several residents of the area with the goal of creating an animation: A walk around San Cresci. As I have aimed to do with previous works involving past travels, I wanted to convey the charm, uniqueness, and fascination I have for this place through animation. This project was on hold as I completed my latest animation, Costa Rica’s Creatures, which launched in September.
About the work
A walk around San Cresci will combine puppets, stop motion and hand-drawn animation, and video. Below is some artwork for the piece that I finished during my stay, as well as a glimpse of the creation process.
My decision to bring limited art supplies with me posed an interesting challenge, and one that helped me focus on my goal of using found or discarded materials to create my art: I used found materials from the residency’s supply room to create both the backdrop for the animation and the rooster puppet (featured in the next section).
Gallo Nero (“GN”): Legend of the black rooster, and puppet
This visit was especially fun, as my husband Neil Kobewka joined me for the second week and used his time to create poetry, a longtime passion of his. This was his first artist residency and at the end, he also presented his work: A poem entitled “Autumn in Chianti” (also featured in the presentation recording). He also became GN’s puppeteer, and got to know him a bit better in the process!
Unexpected sights and fun facts
An abundance of guinea pigs
Valerio Cianti, a nearby resident, runs a farm that hosts an assortment of animals, including guinea pigs, peacocks, rabbits, and numerous types of birds. Valerio graciously hosted us for a visit one afternoon. He and his animal companions will be featured in A walk around San Cresci.
Fagioli al fiasco
On the last night of the residency, our hosts Duccio Trassinelli and Demetria Verduci prepared a lovely reception and spread, which included the traditional Tuscan dish Fagioli al Fiasco, made with white beans and sage leaves.
Fun fact:The original meaning of the word “fiasco” is (according to Wikipedia and other sources), “a typical Italian style of bottle, usually with a round body and bottom, partially or completely covered with a close-fitting straw basket.”
The above conveys only a fraction of what I experienced during my stay. I look forward to sharing more stories and impressions in A walk around San Cresci. With each visit, I have learned more details about this area’s rich history and traditions, as well as its evolution in today’s ever changing world.
Grazie to La Macina di San Cresci, and the local community, for another great visit. I look forward to seeing you all again soon, and in the meantime, I’ll relive the experience through animation!
Thank you to everyone who attended the premiere of Costa Rica’s Creatures on September 10, 2022, both in person and virtually! The evening was a grand success. I am truly touched by all your warm messages of congratulations and positive feedback!
If you missed it, you can view the recording of the virtual event on YouTube (the presentation starts at 47:07):
Announcing the premiere screening of Costa Rica’s Creatures, my recently completed animation, followed by a retrospective of my past works. Check out the full programme at https://umaviswanathan.com/events/.
Admission is free (no reservation required), with a reception to follow – details below!
When: Saturday, September 10, 2022 at 19h30 EDT (doors open at 19h00)
During the month of May, I did a stay-at-home artist residency when my overseas travel plans got cancelled. Watch the video summary here, or keep reading for details.
May 2020. Like many who had planned vacations during this time, mine too got cancelled. I had been accepted to a 2-week artist residency on the Greek island of Kefalonia and had planned some time before and after for a bit of independent wandering in Athens and other parts. Alas, this was not to be.
Although I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see a new country (and a beautiful, culturally vibrant one at that) or have the opportunity to share an immersive experience with other resident artists, there were advantages to spending this time off at home:
If the main goal of the trip was to create artwork, then home was an excellent location to do just that, for a number of reasons:
At home, my entire toolbox (or TOYbox, depending on my mood) is at my disposal: I couldn’t have brought it all with me had I left home. I had 3 weeks and my choice of materials to create anything I wanted.
My dedicated art studio of easel, drafting table and animation stand are located within mere feet of one another in our apartment: Absolutely no travel or setup time required.
And last but not least, I had the company of my wonderfully supportive spouse and our 2 (equally supportive) cats to whom I no longer had to say goodbye for the duration – the dreaded downside to my solo travels.
Staycation artist residency: activities
Continue working on my animation in progress, “Costa Rica’s creatures” – a short, handmade work about the wildlife and geography of Costa Rica, based on my travel there in 2018.
Create illustrations and short animations inspired by fashion and nature.
Other activities – the joys of Montréal
I also had the chance to watch our beautiful city blossom, day by day, from spring into summer on multiple running/hiking jaunts to Parc du Mont-Royal, walks through our Plateau neighbourhood, and (socially distanced) picnics (for two) in Parc La Fontaine. All this, plus a bonus sighting of 2 Great Blue Herons who graced our park with their presence for a few days while the pond was low and inspired some artwork (see illustration at the top of this post).
Although my work does not speak directly to world issues (for now), I believe that nothing is created in a vacuum. Had it not been for COVID-19, this report would have been completely different.
As I write this, the world is being transformed by two incredible forces: one a pandemic, and now a global uprising against racial inequality, calling for change that is long overdue. I am humbled by the magnitude of both, and their impact on life as we know it.
I share the hope – and belief – that our world will emerge from this period a kinder, stronger and more just place for all.
Thank you for reading – wishing everyone safety and good health.
In May 2019, I returned to La Macina di San Cresci, located in Italy’s Tuscany region, for a 3-week artist residency. I am happy to be featured once more in La Macina’s yearbook The Artistic Time (11th edition)! Preview the book here.
Friday was a great evening at Kino Montreal! My short film Saison à Saison (Season to Season) was screened as part of Kino’s “Monthly Challenge”: Each participant had to create a 2-minute film on a given theme, and complete it within a month. This month, the theme was “Nightmare before Christmas: Films about Halloween and films about Christmas”. Thank you Kino Montréal for the opportunity to participate and to present my work.
Vendredi, c’était une soirée géniale chez Kino Montréal ! Mon court
métrage d’animation Saison à Saison a été présenté dans le cadre du « Défi mensuel » de Kino : Chaque participant a dû créer un film de 2 minutes sur un thème donné, et tous avaient un mois pour le compléter. Ce mois, le thème était “Nightmare before Christmas: (films d’Halloween et films de Noël)”. Merci à Kino Montréal, pour l’occasion d’y participer et de présenter mon travail.