Several months ago I received a commission by Paramacharya Sadasivanatha (editor of “Hinduism Today” magazine) to do a painting for a special issue on karma. “River of Karma” is now complete and on the way to the Hawaiian island of Kauai where the magazine is located.
Similar to the last time (“Hindu Map of Europe,” January 2014 issue), the project was a stretch assignment: complicated, technically difficult and strictly controlled by Kauai Aadheenam, Hindu monastery and publisher.
All the tableaux were laid out per the monastery’s requests, from the positions of the figures to the kinds of clothes they wear. Still, there was enough wriggle room to make things interesting.
For instance, Ganesh was to hold a river in his top hands with water running throughout the entire piece, but just how this would be accomplished was up to me. I used a traditional format for the Elephant-headed One, but placed water where his normal accoutrements would be. A stream runs down the torso where flower garlands usually hang, and the bolster cushions on either side of the seat are now swirling, blue whirlpools.
The children picking flowers are laid out per monastery request….
…but the similarly requested boulders and splashing water are filtered through my own style.
The young people sweeping in front of the temple is the least changed from the initial sketch, but the fish is new. Like a salmon returning to its spawning ground, I often find myself struggling upstream toward the deity.
I put the young folk feeding the poor into more mature clothing, as required, but this portion of the painting also sticks close to the original concept. I made the young lady a redhead as a sweet tribute to two young friends currently considering a cross cultural marriage.
This married-couple-polishing-brass-puja-items section seems weak to me, but I hope I’m wrong. I worked like the dickens to get it to jell but finally gave up. Sometimes things come easily, but when they don’t, the wisest course is often to simply move on. A mature eye knows when to cut its losses.
I changed the position of the figures stringing flower garlands and added the flower basket per instruction, but nobody asked for the kittens. I think they’re a nice addition though.
A turtle swimming through the water was suggested by the monastery…..
…but not this pesky crab (a reference to my birth sign)……
…..or the sweet little mouse in the lower right-hand corner. Ganesh is often shown riding on a rat or a mouse named “Mushika.” I could have given him a saddle but decided to let him be his old, naked rat self. Don’t ask me what this means, if anything.
Unlike previous assignments for the magazine, I signed and dated the graphic. After leafing through back issues of “Hinduism Today” and determining that other artists had done so, I proceeded with confidence.
A great satisfaction settles in at the completion of a project as big as this one. I almost begged off the assignment, thinking it was too much for me, but am awfully glad I persevered and carried through. Now is the time to direct all attention to the Puffin Grant. Surely, staring at nothing but Ganesh for over a month can do nothing but help the enterprise.