Category Archives: Artists & Art Projects

I am a great lover of all forms of art, and I create it every day as part of my day-to-day living. Whether I’m painting a wall, redecorating a room or simply arranging items on my altar for evening puja, I love to incorporate art into everything I do. I see art everywhere, I live art. That is what I am. That’s the only way I know how to live. ~ Jana Draupadi Thevar

Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti

by Jana Draupadi Thevar

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The Vedic age was one of flamboyant beauty in all ways. It was a lifestyle that combined spirituality,  laws of dharma and art in equal proportions. From architecture to city planning, common speech to styles of everyday wear, everything was steeped in art. This is apparent from the elaborate, poetic descriptions of the Vedic lifestyle in various ancient scriptures.

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For example, the following excerpts were taken from the Bhagavata Purana. These describe the opulence of the legendary thousand-gated city of Dvaraka, where Sri Krishna reigned as king in the Dwapara Yuga age.

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sarvartu-sarva-vibhava-
puṇya-vṛkṣa-latāśramaiḥ
udyānopavanārāmair
vṛta-padmākara-śriyam

TRANSLATION

The city of Dvārakāpurī was filled with the opulences of all seasons. There were hermitages, orchards, flower gardens, parks and reservoirs of water breeding lotus flowers all over.

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sitātapatra-vyajanair upaskṛtaḥ
prasūna-varṣair abhivarṣitaḥ pathi
piśaṅga-vāsā vana-mālayā babhau
ghano yathārkoḍupa-cāpa-vaidyutaiḥ

TRANSLATION

As the Lord (Krishna) passed along the public road of Dvārakā, His head was protected from the sunshine by a white umbrella. White feathered fans moved in semicircles, and showers of flowers fell upon the road. His yellow garments and garlands of flowers made it appear as if a dark cloud were surrounded simultaneously by sun, moon, lightning and rainbows.

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Artist Giampaolo Tomassetti (spiritually initiated as Jnananjana Dasa) has captured the splendor of this era beautifully in his exquisite works of art. What a gift indeed to be blessed with a mind and hands that can create wonders like these. Words fail me as I try to praise this man’s stunning work. All I can say with a sigh is, this is true art.

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Here’s a video showing some of these works in progress:

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About Giampaolo Tomassetti

He was born on March 8, 1955, in Terni, Italy. From 1980 to 1987, he was a founding member of the International Vedic Art Academy, located at Villa Vrindavan in Italy. A number of his paintings appear in books published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. He has held about thirty exhibitions all around Italy. One of his great loves is painting frescoes and walls. He worked on the Mahabharata project for the last twelve years in Citta di Castello, Perugia, Italy.

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Finally, this is Villa Vrindavana, where Giampaolo’s paintings are currently being exhibited.

 

Update: As many of you have written to me asking details about these works of art, I’d like to clarify a couple of things. The artist, Jnananjana Dasa (Giampaolo Tomassetti), informed me that all these paintings (original pieces) were sold to the Museum of Spiritual Art (MOSA) at Villa Vrindavana, Italy and are currently exhibited there. There was a limited edition book with these prints for sale, but most websites selling it have updated me that copies have been sold out. I don’t have HD quality images of any of these paintings.

Jana Draupadi Thevar @ Shrishthi Brahmarupa

 

Related Links:

Bhakti Yoga Through the Art of Puja

Choosing a Mala: Tulasi, Rudraksha or Both?

Everything You Need to Know About Rudraksha

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

How to Know if Your Rudraksha Beads are Genuine

Living Art: Things to Learn from Victor Santal

by Princess Draupadi

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The first time I saw this incredible musician performing in front of Palacio Real de Madrid, my jaw literally dropped. I watched the entire performance, completely entranced, before I asked who he was. A friend from Ibiza then told me his name: Victor Santal.

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Photo Credit: Lady Ganesha

I don’t know if it was the fact that he was dressed like he fell out of Skyrim. Or that he was busking with an instrument as elegant as a Celtic harp in the streets, like it was the most normal thing in the world. Or that he was actually playing a heavy metal song on a freaking lever harp. I guess it was everything merged together.

But one thing stood out to every onlooker who watched him, all equally as enchanted as I was.

He was GOOD. Really, really good.

Victor was playing “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, and he was doing that like it was written for harp. Anyone who has seen him perform various other songs, from challenging classical pieces to more modern music, will recognize the depth of talent and versatility of this musician.

Heavy metal or rock fans will appreciate his gift even more, knowing what kind of skill it takes to musically interpret “Nothing Else Matters” or “November Rain” – songs that were never initially meant for the delicate nature of a harp.

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One would generally expect angelic, soft tunes from an instrument like this. Not Guns N’ Roses. Certainly not Metallica. But this guy slays it with his personal style, like the imaginary dragons he probably could in his medieval getup.

The real genius of this man lies in his interpretation of the music he chooses to play, from Yann Tierson to Michael Nyman. How does a musician transform a heavy metal song into this, on an instrument made of little more than strings and air? This guy single-handedly sparked a trend across YouTube, with various other harpists attempting to play this world-famous song.

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I say this as a die-hard fan of Metallica and Lars: none of their versions come close to how he does it. Victor Santal played it best.

And nothing else matters.

About Victor Santal

Here’s an odd thing about this harpist: no one knows a damned thing about him. Well, at least, not much on a personal level. He’s like the wind. He comes and goes, he’s everywhere and nowhere.

He’s famous by word of mouth in his home country of Spain, where he is a regular street performer. Victor is known to occasionally perform in local shows, concerts, events and in collaboration with more famous bands like Trobar de Morte. He’s also been spotted around various European countries from time to time. It’s puzzling that a man of his talent chooses to remain so elusive, but I suppose he has his reasons. Not every artist enjoys the public attention that comes with fame.

The purpose of this article is not to dig up his private life or scrutinize his personal story, whatever it may be. He’s obviously a man who values his privacy very much. So rightfully, we as the public should respect that, so he can continue making the world a more beautiful place with his art. So let’s leave him to do his thing and focus on what really matters: his music.

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So, what makes this musician so good? It’s not mere training or skill. Millions of classically-trained musicians around the world have incredible ability when it comes to wielding their instruments, a result of the (usually) rigid syllabus when it comes to the study of classical music. Examinations, grading, hours and hours of practice. Upon completion of this type of study, anyone can develop pure skill in terms of playing any musical instrument. YouTube is full of videos of child prodigies playing difficult classical compositions as effortlessly as they would make sandcastles on a beach.

Here he is in Amsterdam, playing Pachelbel’s Canon with Sergio Gonzalez:

From my observation, what makes Victor’s music so entrancing is simply love.

The love he has for art. His passion for music. The respect he has for his instrument. The love he has for people.

It’s obvious he’s not playing for money, not with that kind of talent. He plays for love. He enjoys what he’s doing and he’s happy to do it. His love spreads to everyone who is lucky enough to hear his music, and he creates this beautiful cycle of energy everywhere he goes.

He doesn’t simply play music. He becomes music.

Conclusion

At this point, I would like to say thank you to Victor. Thank you for bringing such elegant beauty to the common man in the streets. Thank you for giving regular folks concert-quality music and expecting nothing in return. Thank you for your humility to sit on a noisy, dusty sidewalk with that divine instrument, when you deserve to perform before an audience of kings. Just thank you, for your gift of music.

And that is what we can learn from this artist. How to create art with love and without expectations. How to spread love using love. How to become living art.

Valuable lessons for people like us who make up his audience, some of us who are complete strangers to the art of performing. Those among us who know nothing of timeless classical masterpieces like Pachelbel’s Canon, or the blood and tears behind great medieval compositions like Brian Boru’s March. People who are illiterate to sheet music. He merges with his art to become magic to those who have forgotten how to dream, the working class lost in the grind and suffering of mundane, day-to-day living.

We need more artists like Victor Santal. People who create real art out of love. If we want the world to be a better place, we need to appreciate, respect and support genuine artists like him.

Photo credits: Lady Ganesha, Victor Santal’s official website.

Related Links:

Official Website: Victor Santal

Official Website: Trobar de Morte

Mahabharata Indian Art Series by Giampaolo Tomassetti

Fashion Photoshoot: Project Israa

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by Jana and Sashi

Why We Did It

Sashi is a civil engineer by profession. Like me, he’s an artist, passion-wise. We often speak about collaborating on art projects but are always too busy with our day jobs. However, it finally happened. This is the first art project we did together. And what can I say? It was an amazing experience. We had lots of fun and learned a lot in the process.

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As a fine art photographer, Sashi loves to explore unconventional ideas. I am no less eccentric, which is probably why we make a good team (when we’re not fighting, at least).

This shoot was pretty much a regular fashion shoot, but since it was the first time we were working together on a personal art project, we didn’t get too crazy with things. He gave me some basic guidelines on the mood and emotions he wanted to capture in the model, but he left the fashion styling and wardrobe choices entirely to me. I didn’t really know what to expect either, so I formed some mental concepts and decided to go with the flow.

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As an ex-fashion editor of CLEO and wardrobe stylist on film sets, I’d worked with a lot of models before. From directing photo shoots and costuming to doubling up as a makeup artist, I’ve done a bunch of these things and thoroughly enjoyed myself along the way, before I ditched it all for the drab stability of financial-services cubicle life. These projects are my escape routes from my self-inflicted, modern-day slavery.

I’ve also been a die-hard fan of Vogue and haute couture since I could read, so you can say fashion is in my blood. My mum is a seamstress; a very good one too. I had all my dresses tailor-made for me right up to my teens. Sometimes, I helped my mum sew, especially during Diwali when there was too much to do. I literally grew up steeped in fashion.DSC_2399-1

My Fashion Styling for the Model

Our model expressed her wishes to be shot in street-style denim and muted colors, with some implied nudity thrown in. In fact, she’d contacted Sashi after seeing his fine art photography with a nude model, so we knew she was comfortable with that kind of art.

I asked if she was okay to try a saree, and she was game. I was excited; I loved draping sarees on non-Indian women. With an Indian woman you kind of know what it’s going to look like, but with a woman of a different ethnicity, it’s always a wonderful surprise.

I requested for a few pictures of her, full-length and without makeup, to get some ideas and inspiration on how to dress her. Then, I began the process of picking the outfits.

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She is from Sudan, and had the exotic, ethnic features of people from that region. I decided to use outfits that contrasted with the idea of fashion that’s generally associated with people of African roots (bright colors, turbans, bold prints, etc.). I asked her to keep the makeup neutral and natural so it would blend with a variety of looks.

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Her major plus points were her lovely figure and long legs, so I decided to play those features up with the clothes I chose for her. I picked a raincloud-grey jersey dress, an acid-wash denim miniskirt and jacket combo, a white and blue Bohemian-inspired ensemble, a sheer beige chiffon top and finally, a black saree with champagne and frosted copper detailing. With the modern clothes, I was aiming for a breezy, natural look – the kind you’d see on a city girl who’d gotten dressed to stroll the streets on a beautiful summer’s day.

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I loved the way the pictures turned out, they were perfect to me. The ones of her in the saree stunned me though. I don’t know how or why, but she suddenly transformed into a goddess the minute I finished draping the material over her. She just immediately became more elegant and graceful. She glowed. A demure, dark radiance. A saree does that to women, I’ve noticed. It brings out that sacred feminine beauty in ways that other outfits simply can’t.

I chose the saree based on her name, which means ‘Night Journey’ in Arabic. Here she is, the dark moon draped in a galaxy of stars. And Sashi captured her resplendence perfectly, in that precise moment when our energies of creation aligned. I created the look, she created the magic and he created the art with a click.

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Sashi Speaks

As a photographer, it would be a crime to say the role of a photographer is only limited to identifying special moments. I can be vilified for such a claim by the photographers’ community. I don’t really care. With the advent of technology, endless auto-modes and presets, anyone can capture a good quality photograph, even with a mobile phone.

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So what separates a photographer from a camera owner? It’s the eye for tasteful details that touch the artist in everyone. It’s just like good music. Everyone likes it but no one knows why and the composer would have most certainly not composed it academically.

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I’ve always been on the receiving end of questions like what is it that I intend to convey through a particular photograph. My answer is always the same; none. Art is just a reflection of our inner being manifesting in completely purposeless action; purposeless as far as satiating our rudimentary survival needs is concerned.  Art is self-expression, something as simple as a wink or showing your middle finger in anger. It should not be academic. Do you calculate how high you have to raise your hand and the moment force to be applied to express the right amount of anger when you show your middle finger? That’s my type of photography. I don’t overthink the outcome. I don’t plan my shots. I don’t think about the rule of thirds, shadows behind the nasal bridge and the grains in the highlights. The details are always there for us to see, everywhere and anywhere, in the darkness and in bright sunshine. You don’t see the stars during the full moon and when you get to see the stars during new moon, you don’t get to see the moon. The moments are just beautifully unfolding perpetually. We fail to see them more often than not.

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I am an impulsive photographer. I click each time I see a good moment from my perspective. I don’t give out too many instructions, let alone clear ones. I told Shrishthi (Jayna) a few things. “I am a fine art photographer. Whoever I shoot and whatever the theme, I want my pictures to be a double edged sword. Seductive without being obscene, raw yet aesthetic, gracefully minimalistic. Strictly no manipulation of body parts. Capture human beauty in its natural state”.

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She suggested a little bit of makeup, some clothes, and maybe heels. I would rather take a lot of stick than to receive a diplomatic compliment. Diplomacy and normalcy are like flaccid dick. Not much use. A hard on is debatable. Men think a hard on makes them superhuman. Women feel it’s equally boring because men don’t last. But there it is; a double edged sword and hoopla. Anyway, I was just kidding.

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All three of us showed up on the day of the photoshoot. I set up some basic lighting. The stylist decided on the outfit, the model posed with the input from the stylist and I clicked. Both of them created the moments and the details for me. They were brilliant. I just needed to click at the right time. I think the outcome of their work was quite impressive.

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Related Links:

What Does it Take to be a Model?

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