From San Ignacio, Belize

Scratchboard, 16 x 20
Hiking the densely-forested terrain of the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve in Belize, I had spotted several troops of howler monkeys, gibnuts, white-lipped peccaries and countless exotic birds. Sadly the only jaguar I spotted in that trip had been at the Belize Zoo.

Not content with such an interesting animal parade, upon every rustle in the thicket my ears would perk up for the faintest whistle of that gentle giant. The Baird’s tapir that had once rubbed shoulders with the ancient Maya indeed proved to be a shy creature. A scary herbivore when enraged, I had to be careful lest I stumbled upon an unsuspecting full-grown adult or worse, a mother and its baby. Unfortunately the closest I came to spotting a ‘mountain cow’ – as the tapir is known – was only a set of fresh tracks on a trail leading to a pond.

Mother and Child - A Family Portrait

My foray to the Belize Zoo surprisingly proved futile since the resident tapir had decided to nap out its afternoon, much to my chagrin. Determined, I ended up at the Field Museum in Chicago, picking up where the taxidermist had left off.

Lighting up the fur, and the eyes of mother and child with bolder cuts of the blade, I needed to breathe some life into this rather sterile setting. I used an X-Acto #11 blade, nicking out each strand of fur, hair by hair. It took me several weeks to complete one of my bigger pieces I had ever attempted in this medium.

 

– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.

From Mahabalipuram, India – Dispatch 3 of 3

 

In the midst of sand and spume there was only the sound of silence.

I was in ancient Mahabalipuram in South India on a sultry summer day in 1986.

A short walk away from the Shore Temple sprawled a tribute in stone dedicated to the heroes of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata.

 

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Upon an embankment stood fashioned five “chariots” (never understood how these looked like chariots!)  carved in stone – monolithic structures each hewn into its own peculiar shape. From the mighty Dharmaraja Ratha which towers above the rest, to the oblong Sahadeva Ratha and the little hut-like Draupadi Ratha, each monument seemed to share a history of its own.

Only the thrum of the booming sea wafted in the cool breeze as I watched these stone sentinels that had seen thirteen centuries of winds and waves dashing against the ramparts of an ancient sea-port.

Commercial scratchboards weren’t available then – I therefore put my homemade scratchboard of hardboard, gesso and India ink to use, creating this work over a couple of days.

 

– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.

 

 From Mahabalipuram, India, Dispatch 2 of 3

Here in the seaside town of Mahabalipuram in South India, master craftsmen of yore had chiseled splendor in stone. Each column, each image, each form came alive with rhythm of ancient architecture.

Facing the turquoise sea stood a 90 foot x 45 feet colossus, one of the biggest stone bas-reliefs in the world. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arjuna’s Penance comprises two humongous boulders with a fissure in between. Around it are carved figures of gods and goddesses, beasts and birds even as, somewhere in the contained chaos of stone figures,  Arjuna, the hero of the Indian epic, Mahabharata, stands upright, praying for victory in war.

It was a balmy day in the summer of 1986. I stood under a sweltering sun, taking a few sketches and black-and-white photographs with my boxlike Rolleiflex upon a wobbly tripod perched on sand. I had fashioned a 12 x 16 hardboard coated with hardened gesso and a coat of India ink. This was my scratchboard before commercially-made products were freely available.

 

– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.

 

From Mahabalipuram, India – Dispatch 1 of 3

 

I watched the waves lashing adamantly on the rocks, the hushing foam sweeping the sands. I stood by the Shore Temple, an ancient structure lost in time.

An hour’s palm-fringed drive along the road from Chennai in South India sprawls this once-flourishing sea-port – domain of the mythological vain king Bali, who was humbled by Vishnu, the Protector god of the Hindu pantheon.

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Mamallapuram, as it is popularly known, was once the kingdom of the Great Wrestler or Mamalla, King Narasimhavarman I (630 A.D -668 A.D) who had built the earliest of its monuments.

After a few sketches and photographs with my ancient black-and-white Rolleiflex, I proceeded to prepare my own scratchboard with gesso on hardboard with several coats of diluted black ink.

It was 1986 – one of my earliest pieces of such engraved art.

 

 

– Check out www.kvkrishnan.com to get more insights into my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, where I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.

 

From Ellora Caves, India

 

“Tell  me  something,” I asked our guide at the  end  of  the tour of the Ellora Caves. “How did three distinct faiths coexist here as one?”

He thought a while.

“The  Ellora Caves are carved in along a gigantic  crescent – just like the moon much past its fulness”  he  replied, poetically. “The moon reflects itself separately on several pots  filled water. But there is only one moon, just as there is oneness in the cosmos…”

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 From Bryce Canyon, Utah

US - UTAH - Hoodos at Bryce Canyon
Serendipitous stone sentinels stretched endlessly as far as the eye could see. The wind fluted through these strange rocks, with every swish microscopically carving yet another mark on the face of Time. The afternoon sun smiled down on these shapely crags, licking them into a pinkish glimmer.

I stood watching the millions of these limestone sculptures arrayed in the spectacular diorama ahead – these were the ‘hoodoos’ of Bryce Canyon – sentinels of a harsh stonescape.

It had been a three-hour drive from my little log cabin in a place called Hurricane in Utah through lush landscape.

I stood by the Bryce Amphitheater, probably one of the most enchanted spots in timeless Bryce Canyon; some would argue, probably one of the most intriguing spots on this planet. I eyed the endless stretch of strangely shaped hoodoos from the loft of Bryce Point, one of the highest overlooks along the rim of the amphitheater. To me this could have passed off as an ancient necropolis, or even an ancient city carved into the mountainscape – replete with shrines and palaces, minarets and turrets – for miles that I could gaze into.

Far into my drive back to my cabin I couldn’t just get those stony wonders off my mind – spectators had seen through millions of years of earth’s moods and watched strange life forms come and go.

Civilizations had sprung forth and had been snuffed out, the sun had set on them a countless times, smoldering their faces into an eerie glow.

 

– In my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, I invite readers to experience such adventure, humor and imagery illustrating my travels.

From Ellora Caves, India

We were more than 15 miles away from the colorful township of Aurangabad and 250 miles from the bustle of Mumbai. Our creaky Jeep headed for the renowned Ellora Caves was groaning through a winding ascent.

“Here are 34 caves carved out in a crescent curve on the slope of these low hills,” our guide told us.

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From enchanting Costa Rica

Angry Arenal

Just the afternoon before, our airplane had droned twenty-thousand feet above the sandy sprawl of the Mexican beaches and angry volcanoes of Guatemala. Cutting in from the Caribbean Sea, we hushed down palm trees and sudden mountain crags before landing at San Jose’s Santa Marina airport in exotic Costa Rica.

As we drove towards the fiery volcano of Arenal past endless coffee plantations and banana groves, our car would be lost high in the mists, passing through charming cloud forests…

 

– In my new book Rambles into Sacred Realms: Exploring Divinity through Pen and Paint, I invite readers to experience such adventure and imagery illustrating my travels.

 

 

From Ambarnath, India

I stood in an ancient shrine to Lord Shiva – the Destroyer of Death in the Hindu Trinity.

Known as the shrine of Ambreshwar or the Lord of the Skies, this was a 10th Century stone jewel incredibly tucked away in the heart of a bustling Mumbai suburb.

Intricate carvings made up this age-old monument lost in the bustle of high rises and the clangor of a city. Continue Reading

From Fairbanks, Alaska

The hush of silence was indeed mesmerizing. The swath of the 600-mile Alaska Range glistened in the landscape. Yellow specks mottled the trees in the boreal forests – Nature was readying herself in choicest finery for the approaching fall. Continue Reading