The Indian Artist: Mandir

From a young age, something I always found interesting was the difference between my culture from that of others around me. I would mostly compare my experiences with the anecdotes of my friends, many of whom practiced some sect of Christianity and attended church. One thing that I thought was noteworthy was the emphasis on shoes and either their removal before entering a place of worship or not.

Being Hindhu and growing up in a religious family, we attended the temple, or mandir, decently often. As we would enter, we were expected to remove our shoes and wash our hands before proceeding into the main prayer hall where the statues of deities stood and everybody paid their respects. This is the custom in all Indian temples and mosques around the world.

My mother grew up attending Catholic schools so we weren’t strangers to the customs at a traditional church either. There, the removal of shoes is not required nor enforced. This difference was something that stood out to me. This very basic and completely harmless difference in cultures is something that I love about religion. The multi-faceted and wide range of traditions ranging from the simplest to the most complex is what makes religion and the practice of different cultures so beautiful.

I wanted to capture this small element of my culture in a piece of mine. This piece done entirely in ink with accents of red and gold leafing, two colors that are dominant in Indian garb and decoration, is titled My Temple. It is a simple yet self-sufficient name, requiring no further explanation. I wanted to do this piece merely as a rendition of traditional temples in India rather than something deeply conceptual such as some of my other work. I wished to capture the simplicity of the ideals of the Hindu religion: respect, and grounded devotion.

Removing shoes outside of a temple before entering is both a symbolic and conscious desire to leave behind the outer world and dirt before entering the house of the lord. The same goes for any home. Hindus remove their shoes before entering their own homes and the homes of friends, family, neighbors, and loved ones. Seeing as shoes carry the dirt and germs from the outside world, we make sure that we do not bring it into any place of living with us. The thought is that we want to treat the temple as we would treat our own homes.

In other traditions where shoes are allowed in places of worship, their reasonings are completely sound as well. Providing means of hygiene, sanitary purpose, and modesty, reasons for wearing shoes also stand. Wearing shoes inside of places of worship for other cultures by no means a lack of importance and respect. Rather, it is a beautiful thing that emphasizes how so many types of people with so many beliefs, and ways of living exist in our world. We oftentimes forget to accept diversity and equity with open arms but it is an essential aspect of building a better world for ourselves and our future.

As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stands out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

Looking forward to next Sunday!


~ Riya



The Indian Artist: I’m in a bit of a rut…

I’m not going to lie, getting inspiration for writing and art these past few weeks has been especially difficult. I could not really give you a proper reason either if you were to ask me why. It seems that with the monotonous ebb of school and combined with mundane life, I have felt removed from my creative side, something which disturbed me greatly when I realized what was happening. So, to try to make my way back slowly into the marvelous world of creation and art, I thought that this week I would dive into a few of my favorite mediums, styles, and techniques that I use in my own work. Enjoy!

Her Majesty

As I discussed in one of my first few posts on my column, I grew up scouring over the work of my favorite artists, trying to replicate them detail by detail. I got my start through observation and replication. However, as I grew older and came into my own, it pained me that I did not have a distinct “style” of art that I could call mine. I didn’t have a mode of creation that was unique and original to me. It wasn’t until later on in high school that I truly found the mediums that I could get lost in, a style of creating that felt most representative of me.

I like to say now that I am a “mixed media artist”, that I don’t limit myself, and that I like to use a bit of everything. For me, this means using a mixture of ink, watercolor, and gold/silver leafing. Though I never hold myself back from trying different mediums of art such as oil paint, pastel, printmaking, and diluted henna even, I feel that this combination has provided me with a wide arena of freedom that is almost liberating while not going too crazy.

I am a person that likes form and structure, that’s the scientific part of my brain really coming into play, the same reason that abstract art and avant-garde material tend to upset me greatly. However, being able to create a distinct shape and line structure with ink and pen and then using watercolor, a characteristically loose medium, overtop provides such a cathartic release. If one were to look at the art I have done where I use this combination of mediums, he or she would notice that I love to use circles as well, especially concentric or overlapping circles of different sizes. I don’t have an explanation for this per se, but if I were to gander, I think these small carefully lined-out details give my work some more verisimilitude, some extra authenticity, and interest while adding an element of control and brevity (if such a word can be used to describe art).

Birds of a Feather

I use a lot of these methods in one of my favorite pieces I have ever done, American Dhulan. I also have two small corresponding studies that I did call Her Majesty and Birds of a Feather that really solidified this combination as my favorite. These were very simple pieces that I did on the back of a handmade book because I was bored one day and felt a deep yearning to paint. But I truly believe that it was because of these two drawings that I really found my favorite style of art, something that I love employing in many of my pieces now. The cautiously rendered forms with the smokey overlays of color seem to combine both sides of me perfectly. The streaks of leafing work alongside the circular accents and pops of white create an amalgamation of symbolic aspects of myself.

I love diving into the unique styles and forms of many artists. I thought that it would be interesting to share one of my favorite vehicles of creation with you all this week! If you have not tried laying down a puddle of the right watercolor and lightly blowing to create a beautiful splatter of paint, I highly recommend you try it! As I say every week, if anything that I discussed in this post stands out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

Looking forward to next Sunday!


~ Riya



The Indian Artist: Carved Acrylic

An example of Jensen’s beautiful work

In light of a very stressful week for me full of exams and papers, I thought that I would do a short and sweet post today sharing with all of you another incredible artist that I found. Enjoy!

Hannah Jensen is a multidisciplinary artist most well-known for her carved work. She achieves her incredibly unique and bespoke artwork by applying layers of paint to a board before using printmaking carving techniques to create breathtaking renderings. The resulting artwork features images rendered in negative relief that emphasizes tonality between the different layers of paint she uses. Jensen uses anywhere from 40 – 80 layers of paint for each one of her carvings, creating pieces so deeply right in color and texture.

My first attempt at printmaking


As someone who has dabbled in printmaking,  as shown in the image to the right, and absolutely obsessed with the process, the moment I saw Jensen’s work I was in love. I hope to spread this same beauty and love with all of you! Especially in times such as these where I am sure many of you are stressed and feeling the strains of online classes and COVID-19, I wanted to take a moment to share some art that made me smile. I have linked Hannah Jensen’s Instagram below and some of her incredible work here as well. Please feel free to check her out!


As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stood out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.


~ Riya


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The Indian Artist: Strands of Me

In honor of National Cancer Prevention Month, I thought that I would take a break from my regularly scheduled program of cultural stories to share a recent piece that I did commemorating one aspect of the difficulties that come with cancer.

For many people, hair can be a large part of their identity, image, and self-expression. Hair has a way of instilling confidence as well as portraying good health and hygiene. According to the Mayo Clinic, “You might not think about how important your hair is until you face losing it. And if you have cancer and are about to undergo chemotherapy, the chance of hair loss is very real. Both men and women report hair loss as one of the side effects they fear most after being diagnosed with cancer.” 

In my recent art piece done in graphite and colored pencil, I wanted to capture this extremely painful aspect of cancer. Titled Stands of Me, the piece reflects on this challenging side effect of cancer treatments, personifying the emotional toll that it can play on anybody facing it. In this piece, I show a woman looking down at a hand full of her fallen out hair with tears streaming from her eyes. Wrapped around her is a pink ribbon symbolizing the universal symbol for breast cancer, adding not only interest to the piece but also charging the true meaning behind it. 

For many, the loss of hair is a symbol to the world that you have cancer. It is a very difficult thing that many people facing cancer have had to deal with. Facing already a physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing condition, changes in appearance due to cancer treatment can further perpetuate loss and pain. I wanted to capture this in my artistic representation of cancer. Though cosmetic, the loss of hair has implications that travel much deeper than the surface. It no longer becomes about appearance. The hair loss is a constant reminder of the internal struggle that so many face. There are many of us with people in our lives who have cancer, and the aspect of hair loss is something so emotional and in and of itself symbolic that I wanted to portray it in a raw way that hopefully strikes a chord in anybody who sees it.

To anybody whose loved ones have or had cancer in any form, I pray for you all and my deepest condolences. Having family struggling with cancer myself, this piece was extremely impactful for me to make. Though one of my simpler pieces, a lot of meaning went into it and I hope that any of you who are reading this felt something different from this week’s post.

As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stood out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.




~ Riya


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The Indian Artist: Emotion in Art

“A work of art that did not begin in emotion is not art” ~ Paul Cezanne

The true reason why I have always been drawn to art, regardless of its form, is the depth of emotion that can be delivered. We have all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. For me, this adage is one that I make sure to always keep in mind when I am creating a piece. This is why I have always felt a strong disconnect from abstract, suggestive, and nonobjective modes of art. Rather, I divulge in conceptual art that strikes a different chord in every person.

For me, I feel connected to a creation when I am caught in the moment and experience something so visceral and real that I have to take another look, that I have to stare for just a minute longer. For me, this comes from art that has deep meaning and intent behind it. This pertains to any form of art whether it be music, dance, or painting. Something that is done with intention and feeling, that is something that deserves to be celebrated.


Art needs to be felt, not only seen…


Bête Noire is an original piece of mine done in ink, with dimensions of 8″x 11″. It was my dive into a literal form of expressive art. Dictated by a prompt given to me in my high school art course, I wanted to take my fear of spiders to a different level, a place where the viewer cringes and feels something deep within themselves. My goal in this piece was to not only develop my technical skills but also to create work that can evoke emotion.

My mother hates looking at this drawing and recoils, while my best friend winces but never diverts her gaze. As odd as it may sound, I have never rejoiced so much to have people look away when I showed them my art. How do you feel when you look at the drawing? Do you think that I succeeded in my goal?

As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stood out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!



~ Riya


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The Indian Artist: The Multi-Headed Serpent

5000 years ago, Krishna, whom you have all heard of at this point, lived in a beautiful town called Vrindavan. He descended from Vishnu to cleanse the Earth of all evil. These stories from Krishna’s childhood teach us to be pious, brave, and to stand up for what is right. Enjoy!!

Kaliya was a terrifying, many-headed serpent who was sent away from the mountain of Vishnu. As it turns out, he chose the banks of the Yamuna River near Krishna’s home, Vrindavan.

Kaliya was so venomous that his presence turned the water toxic, causing it to churn and bubble, turning black and killing every flora and fauna. Nobody in Vrindavan dared to visit the river or go near for fear of dying.

One day, Krishna and his friends were playing near the banks of the river. While playing, their ball fell into the river. Krishna jumped into the water after the ball. His friends tried to call after him, warning him about the terrifying serpent.

Krishna ignored all of their warnings and cries, making sure that he could retrieve the ball for his friends. Everybody in the village rushed to the river, terrified for Krishna, but nobody could go into the water.

Under the water, Kaliya attacked Krishna. He tried to dig his fangs into the Krishna and eject him with his poison. But Krishna, being all-powerful dispelled the venom. Kaliya wrapped his body around Krishna and dragged him deeper into the river, trying to crush him. Krishna grew to be giant, forcing his release.

Krishna dragged the serpent to the river surface, started playing his flute, and danced on the head of the monster. He assumed the weight of the entire universe in his lotus feet. Kaliya started to die, vomiting venom and blood. Kaliya’s wives came to Krishna to beg for his life. Krishna granted mercy after Kaliya understood the error of his ways, he begged for forgiveness and left, never tormenting anybody else ever again.

The waters cleared up as Krishna walked through them. Every living thing came back to life, blossoming with the beautiful power of Krishna. I captured this story in a recent piece of mine done in mixed media ranging from ink and colored pencil, for the foreground, to acrylic for the background. I hope you enjoyed this week’s story and art!! As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stood out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!




~ Riya


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