“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
That is how I see life and the world. And so many of the things we see are beautiful – in the natural world, and the objects, both ornamental and utilitarian, that we create as human beings. As an artist I have attempted to focus on things I see as beautiful and to depict them in a way that makes you see their beauty as well. Whether it is a stylized depiction of an elephant, or the silver jewelry worn by village women in India – my eye focuses on an image and I paint it in the style that is uniquely my own, realistic but stylized, very detailed and ornamental, and using vivid colors.
I am fortunate to have been born in India, into a culture with a keen aesthetic sense and a sensitivity to the spiritual essence of people and things. The Indian love of ornamentation is seen in the most everyday and utilitarian objects – in the clay pot for drawing water from the well, in the designs painted around the doorways and thresholds of village homes. I hope these traits are evident in my paintings. And I love vivid colors, found in the foods, the flowers, the household objects, the fabrics, the jewelry of India.
But I live in America now and do things, like gardening, that show me the detail and shape and color of flowers and I am beginning to paint that now.
To me, art is a journey that takes us to many places and shows us different things. An attempt to capture and share the beauty we encounter in this journey is my true avocation as an artist.
Jyotsna grew up in India, in a very academic family. However, her grandmother and father were skilled at drawing, her father used to draw plans for a house he wanted build and he drew cartoons of his family. So Jyotsna inherited an ability and an appreciation for drawing. Her very earliest memories are of drawing and coloring as a child. Her artistic activities were appreciated by her family, but they never signed her up for any art classes, as her focus was supposed to be on excelling academically, which she did! So she went on to study English Literature and not art, as she may have wished to do. Art was not seen as a serious activity in the India of her youth.
Jyotsna had a very keen appreciation of beauty, in flowers, in nature, in traditional Indian images and art forms, in the beauty of women, their clothes, jewelry and ornaments, so she began to paint what she found beautiful. As a child, she joined an art class for adults, where she was the only child, with an art teacher called Guruji. This was a water color class and Jyotsna painted some pansies in this medium. She continued to paint in watercolors on paper as this was the only medium she knew. She also continued to draw in pencil in various sketch books in the summer holidays, often images of Indian women in traditional dresses from many regions of India.
Jyotsna began to observe the work of Indian artists, like the folk art traditions of many communities. In the villages near her home, she saw the women painting murals representing the gods for religious festivals. These women said not see themselves as artists, and regularly white washed over their paintings in order to make new ones for the next festival. As a teenager, she joined a Home science institute, as her mother wanted her to learn things like cooking and sewing. Fortunately, this school had an art teacher who taught Jyotsna how to prepare hardboard with a primer, and to paint in oil colors. This remains the surface and medium that Jyotsna uses now, as it works well with her highly detailed paintings.
Jyotsna’s first paintings in this medium were inspired by the folk art and miniature painting traditions of India. The subject of these painting tradition is often religious or historic, and Jyotsna painted the life of the divine Krishna in many forms. Jyotsna also appreciates the decorative arts and social traditions of India, and these are the subject of many of her paintings, such as the bangle sellers and henna artists that she has depicted. Diwali, the festival of lights, is a favorite theme, and she has multiple Diwali paintings. Certain things she considers very Indian, like the elephant, the lotus, and the peacock are also favorite subjects.
However, Jyotsna’s art, it’s subjects and it’s styles, are very varied. She greatly admires the illustrations found in children’s books, often by very famous illustrators. Her magnum opus, begun when her children were infants, is an 8’x 8’ painting of children’s stories and nursery rhymes, which took several years to complete. Jyotsna is skilled at making paper collages, and she uses this technique to create images of children’s picture books.
Jyotsna is also an obsessed gardener, and she paints her favorite flowers straight her garden – sunflowers, morning glories, chrysanthemums. She also pores over garden catalogues, magazines and books, and creates collages from their pages – this is play time for her!
So by just doing it, by experimentation with different mediums, styles and subject matter, Jyotsna has created a body of work that reflects her identity and her various interests in life. The aim is always beauty in all it’s forms. Not bad for someone who taught herself how to paint!