Friday, 25 September 2009

Prince of Birds

I was having a look through my artwork on flickr and I noticed that I have quite a few paintings of peacocks I've done over the years. Peacocks are such gorgeous birds. They're colourful, graceful, and exotic. But there's a special quality about them that separates them from other colourful exotic birds (like macaws and flamingos). I've been trying to pinpoint what it is and I think I found it: they're luxurious! Peacocks are associated with wealth, luxury, and beauty. That's why I like to call them the prince of birds.

Why the prince? Because princes have more fun! They don't have to worry about the responsibilities of ruling a kingdom (they leave that to their brother, the eagle), but they get all the perks of being royalty. Peacocks are often seen lounging around the palaces of India. With their beautiful iridescent feathers and vibrant colours, it's easy to become attracted to them.

Here's a small painting I did of a peacock in the shape of a paisley, mixing my favourite bird with my favourite design. The peacock combined with the paisley shape indicates all the beauty and richness of India. By the way, in case you didn't know, the peacock is the national bird of India.

Peacock Paisley

Another reason for the peacock being so special is that he is associated with Krishna. Lord Krishna wears a peacock feather on His head, and is often depicted with peacocks nearby. In many paintings of Vrindavan you see peacocks dancing around. Sometimes Krishna Himself dresses like a peacock and dances around, imitating their movements. For someone who has grown up in India and worshiped Krishna all her life, I can't help but think of Krishna whenever I see a peacock.

Here's my most recent one. Acrylic on canvas.

Prince of Birds


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Here's to Being Spontaneous!

So, after months of being away I've finally been able to paint again, so here's something I threw together. Basically, I tried my hand at something more abstract (I think I had some Pollock on my mind) and this came out.

Bathing Elephant Calf

Bathing Elephant Calf

Acrylic on canvas. The background is a mixture of pthalo blue, ultramarine, cobalt blue, and cerulean blue, with a hint of black. I wanted to get a dark velvety look for the base, and then i splattered it with gold paint. Over that is just a few simple brushstrokes to indicate the elephant. I chose this electric blue simply because, well, I love blue! The squirting water effect was achieved by putting a drip of very watery paint and then blowing so it spreads out (thank you Sanatan for your help with that). Very skilled technique, I know. A few more blue splatters, a bit of white for the eye, and voila! A fun painting completed :D


Thursday, 26 February 2009

New Painting!

After about a year I finally started painting again. It seems I took a break for a while to work on my drawing and sketching skills, producing artworks on paper using pencils and inks. I decided it was time to get back to paint on canvas and borrowed an easel from my future mother-in-law (who happens to be a wonderful artist!).

I began work on this miniature painting a few weeks ago and took photos of my progress as I went along. This is really fun because I get to see the development of my painting afterwards.

I started by applying a wash of reddish-brown acrylic paint on the canvas, to give the painting a warm undertone. Then I drew a rough outline with paint of what I wanted the painting to look like, as shown below.

After that, I began blocking in the background colours. I find it is best to begin with the background and then work towards the foreground of your painting, that way you give a good amount of attention to the background without dismissing it. I painted the sky, outlined some clouds, made a reflection on the river,and used a toothbrush to spray some paint on the ground to create "sand".

I then started working on the foliage, using blobs of grey-green for leaves. I also developed the sky and sun, using orange, yellow, and red to create a sunset. And I created my horizon on the other side of the river bank.

After I was satisfied with my sky I developed the trees and plants a bit more, and got to work on the under painting of the figures. I used this method of working from "back to front" in order to establish depth. The sky is behind the trees, which are behind the figures, everything is overlapping.

Then I got to work on the details of their faces and skin, paying attention to highlights and shadows to create depth. All the while working to enhance the background as well.

Then I began working on giving depth and detail to their clothes and jewellery, still working on their skin and the background all the time. For the flowers I paint white underneath before adding the pink, this helps the colours pop out from the background.

Finally I added detail to their clothes and jewellery, painted the finishing touches on the flowers and leaves, and signed my name. Here is the completed painting.

by Radhika Bianchi, 2009

Friday, 13 February 2009

Dance as a Form of Worship

Dance is an exquisite art portrayed through music and movement. It is a very involved form of expression which uses the heart, mind, body, and senses; and in the case of Vedic dance- the soul.
In India dance is a way of worshipping God. The dance is treated like an offering to God and the movements are like prayers to please the Lord. There are other dances that are more like dance-dramas, where the actors or dancers re-enact the pastimes and stories of the various gods.

There are several types of traditional dance offerings that come from different parts of India, such as Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Manipuri, Sattriya, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam, and Kathakali.


Odissi (oh-di-see) comes from the state of Orissa, in eastern India by the Bay of Bengal. It is a very ancient dance form that was traditionally performed in the temples of Vishnu by the devdasis (women who would spend their entire lives in the temple serving the Lord with devotional dance offerings). There is evidence of the antiquity of Odissi on the ancient temples in Orissa, where many carvings depict the dancers in various traditional Odissi poses.
The costume is unique to other Indian dances in that the jewellery is almost always silver, instead of gold, and the female dancers wear crowns of white flowers in their hair, and the sarees are cotton handloom in the traditional Orissan style. This dance is gorgeously graceful. A good Odissi performance will take the audience's breath away with it's beauty and elegance.
Watch an Odissi performance.


Bharatanatyam (ba-raat-nat-yum) comes from the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. This dance is characterized by elaborate hand gestures called mudras, fast-pace movement, and stamping of the feet. The costumes are traditionally made of colourful silk sarees with elaborate borders. This dance is performed by both men and women, although women tend to dominate it.
Like Odissi, Bharatanatyam is a dance of devotion and it was originally performed exclusively in the temples as an offering to Vishnu. Over time the dance moved out of the temple halls and into the stages of the wealthy upper class of India.
Watch a Bharatanatyam performance.


Manipuri (maa-nee-poo-ree) comes from the state of Manipur in far east India. Manipuri dance is very sweet and graceful, and because Manipur is so close to China the dance has a hint of oriental style to it. The dancers wear elaborate costumes which are famous for the wide tube-like skirts and white veils. Most of the movement is in the hands and it is graceful like a flowing river.
Manipuri dance usually depicts Krishna and the gopis dancing together in the moonlight. This dance is called the Rasa Leela and is the most popular piece in Manipuri dance theatre.
See Manipuri dancing.


Sattriya is a dance from the state of Assam, in far east India. I don't know much about this dance form, in fact I only heard of it when I started writing this article! But I had to include it because it is one of the 8 classical Indian dances, and after watching a few videos I decided I like it.
Sattriya dancers wear traditional Assamese outfits with colourful prints and designs. The movement of the dance is soft and graceful, with many hand gestures and no stamping. It is a very elegant and gentle form of dance.
Watch a Sattriya performance.


Kathak (kaa-tuck) comes from northern India. Kathak dance is different from the other types of dance beacause it has both Hindu and Muslim influences. Some say that the style of dance was a fusion of Indian and Persian culture and this is evident in the costume. Female Kathak dancers generally wear long flowing skirts over trousers and kamis tops, which are typical of Muslim outfits. The style of this dance has a lot of stamping with loud bells on the feet and and many pirouettes and spins. Kathak is especially famous for its spins. The dance is very fast pace and energetic. When the dancers spin their skirts flare out beautifully. A good Kathak dance is quite a spectacle.
Watch a Kathak performance.


Mohiniattam (mo-hee-nee-ah-tum) comes from the state of Kerala in south-west India. This dance is traditionally performed by women wearing beautiful white sarees with ornate gold borders. The costume is unique in that the women always wear their hair in a large bun to the side of their head.
Mohiniattam means "dance of the enchantress". It is given this name because the dance is inspired by the goddess Mohini, an avatar of Vishnu, who used her charms to enchant the demons and keep them away from the nectar of immortality. Therefore, the Mohiniattam style is identified by the slow, seductive movement of the hips and upper body, sweet smiling, and coy movements of the eyes.
Watch a Mohiniattam performance.


Kuchipudi (koo-chee-pu-dee) comes from the state of Andhra Pradesh in south-east India. The dance costume is very similar to that of Bharatanatyam, and the dancers are usually tall and slender (compared to Odissi dancers). The movements are quick and rounded. Kuchipudi is very unique in that the dancers sometimes dance on brass plates, balancing on the raised edges.
Kuchipudi also has devotional roots and is something of a dance-drama. The dancers perform tales of Shiva, Krishna, etc. with dramatic expressions and movements.
Watch a Kuchipudi performance.


Kathakali (kaa-ta-kaa-lee) also comes from Kerala in south-west India. Kathakali is more of a drama than a dance, but is performed to music and rhythm. The Kathakali costume is very colourful; the actors paint their faces in bright colours, wear large heavy headresses, and huge fluffy dresses. The actors are usually men.
Kathakali performances re-enact stories like the Ramayana, Krishna Leela, and tales of various gods and goddesses.
Watch a Kathakali performance.

There are other types of dance that sprout from India, many having roots from vedic literature.


Apsaras are celestial nymphs who dance in the court Indra, the King of Heaven. They are famous for their talent and extraordinary beauty.
In Cambodia and parts of Indonesia there are women called Apsaras who are trained to dance gracefully and beautifully. They wear gorgeous crowns and slim, body-fitting dresses with gorgeous ornaments and flowers in their hair. This type of dance is very soft and gentle, most of the movement is in the hands. There is absolutely no stamping feet and jumping around, the girls remain poised throughout the dance.
Watch the Apsaras performing.

The Rasa Leela

The Rasa Leela is a dance which was originally performed by Krishna and the beautiful gopis of Vraja about 3000 years BC. This is the most famous dance in all of India and different variations of it are performed by the different schools of dance. Folk dancers generally perform the Rasa Leela using wooden sticks and tapping them together. This is a very sweet and simple dance, and became famous worldwide due to the film Lagaan, which has a Rasa Leela stick dance scene.
Watch the Kuchipudi version of Rasa Leela.

One of my drawings, the painting of the dancer above is also done by me.

Dancer in Vrindavan

*All photos are taken by Sanatan John Howchin.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Amazing Amar Chitra Katha Comics

Amar Chitra Katha is a company that publishes comic books about Indian legends, history, folktales and fables. The artists and writers take pains to be as accurate as possible, and stay true to the stories and histories of India's magnificent past. For decades it has entertained and educated children (and adults) all over India. Now, with the invention of the internet, it is much easier to distribute these wonderful books worldwide.

When I was a child I collected Amar Chitra Katha comic books. I had quite a big collection by the time i was twelve, and I loved these books so much I could read every book over and over again. I used to look at every picture and I would think that someday I would be able to draw like that. My style of art is really inspired by these comic books.
To be honest, it was by reading these comics that I learned many of the stories about Krishna and his associates. Amar Chitra Katha have a vast collection of stories from India's ancient past, and have even made comic book versions of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavad Gita.
It was by reading Amar Chitra Katha that I learned about the descent of the Ganga, the story of how Parvati won Shiva's heart, how Ganesha appeared, the story of Mirabai, how the Pandavas won back their kindgom, and many other tales about India's heroes.

Unfortunately I lost all my books when I moved, but I've started my collection up again. At the moment I only have 6 Amar Chitra Katha comics:
  • Mirabai: The story of the princess who became a saint and could not be stopped from worshipping her beloved Krishna.
  • Krishna and Rukmini: The story of how Krishna rescued a princess from a horrible marriage and took her for his own (very romantic).
  • Anirudha: The story of Krishna's grandson and a great battle that began as a result of his love for the beautiful princess Usha.
  • Ganga: The story of the Goddess Ganga and how she came to earth.
  • The Ramayana: A comic book version of Valmiki's great epic.
  • Heroes from the Mahabharata: A collection of tales about certain individual heroes who participated in India's great epic battle at Kurukshetra.
It's not so easy to get these books in the west. I've only ever seen them for sale either in select Indian shops or on the web. But you can get them in almost any bookshop in India.
These books are really great. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to know a little more about the stories of ancient India in a fun, easy-to-read way. And of course, the illustrations are fabuloso!

Click here to get a collection of Amar Chitra Katha on

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Top 8 Must-Have Illustrated Krishna Books

These are the books that inspired me to become an artist and paint Krishna. When I was a child I simply couldn't stop looking at the beautiful illustrations in these books, and I still adore them to this day.

Illuminations from the Bhagavad-Gita

By Kim and Chris Murray. This is a really gorgeous book with full page illustrations by Kim Waters Murray. The paintings are similar to an illuminated manuscript, with wonderful designs and script quoted from the translated Bhagavad Gita by A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabupada. Everytime I look at this book I feel inspired to paint. Recommended for art lovers of all ages.

The Butter Thief

Also by Kim Waters and Chris Murray. This book tells the story of Krishna and his adventures as a little child. This is also really beautifully illustrated with full page paintings of Krishna. It's an incredibly sweet book and was my favourite as a child. This was probably one of the first books I read that inspired me to become an artist. I still have a copy of this book and look at it every now and then to enjoy the nectar of Krishna's pastimes.

Illustrated Bhagavatam Stories: India's Ancient Mystic Culture and Vedic Philosophy (India's Glory & Decline)

Translated by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, retold by Ajamila Das. Illustrated by Jnananjana Dasa(Giampaolo Tomasetti), Sriman Yogendra Rastogi, Sriman Shyamal Kumar Deb, Philip Malpass, Nik Spender, Mark Viney, and Nandarani Devi Dasi. This book was my favourite when I got a little older. The paintings are absolutely fantastic! I used to sit on my bed and look through the pages at the amazing illustrations and wish I could paint as wonderfully as those artists. I still have a copy of this book and I always look at it when I need inspiration. I insist that everyone buy this book! It is an absolute must-have.

Light of the Bhagavata

Written by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and illustrated by Madam Li Yun Sheng
This is a beautifully illustrated book with Chinese style paintings. I was really enchanted by this book all my life. The text is really inspiring and the paintings are so beautiful. It's pretty lightweight and not too expensive, so I would recommend anyone who is interested should purchase it.


By Erik Jendresen and Joshua M. Greene. This is a really cool book about Hanuman, the greatest devotee of Lord Rama. Rama is an avatar of Krishna, and this story is just fantastic. This book tells the story of Hanuman and how he helped Rama defeat the demon Ravana and rescue princess Sita. The illustrations are very beautiful. If you don't have it already then click on the link above and get it!

Krishna Art

This is a collection of paintings from ISKCON's BBT archives. With each painting is a page with the story behind the painting, the artist's name, and the year it was completed. This is a huge book containing 400 pages, but it's totally worth it! I'm so depressed I lost my copy of it when I moved to Los Angeles and I never got it back. I used to spend hours and hours looking at each painting and reading the stories. This is the book that inspired me to paint the most. You MUST get this book! It is absolutely the best art book in the world (in my opinion).

Form of Beauty: The Krishna Art of B.G.Sharma

By B.G. Sharma and Swami B.V. Tripurari. This is a compilation of the Krishna paintings of B.G. Sharma. It is really absolutely beautiful, with illustrations done in traditional Rajasthani style. It's not too big and bulky like the Krishna Art book, so it's much easier to have around. I really like this book with its intricate detal and warm, earthy colours. I highly recommend this book for all art lovers (especially traditional Indian art lovers).

Agha, the Terrible Demon: The Childhood Pastimes of Krishna

By Karen Wilson and Joshua Greene. This is a really fun book I used to read often when I was a kid. It tells the story of how Krishna saved his friends from a giant snake demon by using his mystical powers. I loved this book so much. The illustrations are really cute and sweet. It's a wonderful book for children (and adults too if you're like me!)

If you are interested in buying any of the books I have mentioned then please click on the links I have provided, as this helps me to keep my blog going. Thanks!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

A Poem and a Painting

This is a poem I wrote describing Krishna. It is written from the perspective of his mother, Yasoda. Dusk has fallen and Krishna still has not returned from the pastures, so Yasoda becomes anxious and begins to ask of Krishna's whereabouts, describing Him to everyone including the plants and animals.


I’m looking for a little boy.
Have you seen him today?
His eyes are bright and filled with joy,
They look just like a summer’s day.

His skin is blackish, tinged with blue,
A monsoon cloud up in the sky.
Soft lips display a reddish hue
And on his bamboo flute they lie.

With peacock feathers in his bun,
And pearls adorn his long black curls.
His smile is brighter than the sun,
It steals the hearts of all the girls.

A garland swings around his neck
With flowers fragrant and sweet.
With gold and jewels he is bedecked,
And tinkling bells around his feet.

His cheeks are pinkish, soft and round
Like roses blooming in the spring.
With lotus eyes so deep and brown
He makes the hearts of Vraja sing.

His face is bright like the full moon,
Framed by earrings that glisten.
When on his flute he plays a tune
Even the birds sit still and listen.