How do those Mad Artists Think? Art Decoded at The Toddy Shop, Hauz Khas Village


Workshop Title

How do those Mad Artists Think? Art Decoded.

Workshop duration

3 hours

Date and Time

Sunday, 14th December 2014, 4.30 PM – 7.30 PM

Workshop Fee

Rs.600. Includes a beer and veg/non-veg snacks.

Introductions (10 minutes)

4.30 – 4.40

Introductions, with name and favourite artist, film maker, writer etc.

That's me, randomly pasting 'big words' from the world of Art, all over the floor of the workshop space. 

That’s me, randomly pasting ‘big words’ from the world of Art, all over the floor of the workshop space.

Post-it discussions – ‘Demystifying Big Words’  (1 hour)

4.40 – 5.20

Discussions on the meaning of ‘Big Words’ from Art and Design and the relationships between them. What’s the difference between Craft and Art for instance? Or what’s the difference between Performance Art and Theatre?

5.20 – 5.40

Rearranging the ‘Big Words’ to demonstrate how they all fit into a very logical artistic process.

Break (10 minutes)

5.40 – 5.50

Cigarettes, washroom, answering missed calls

Creative Geniuses from Art History and what does ‘Being an Artist’ mean today – ( 1 Hour 20 minutes)

5.50 – 7.10

-Presentation on the arc from Realism to Abstraction and the beginning of Modern Art.

-Presentation on major Art Movements from 1900 to the present, with key figures.

Conclusion (20 minutes)

7.10 – 7.30



1 A, 2nd Floor, Hauz Khas Village, Hauz Khas, New Delhi

Ph: 01140519338, 09560256426

Get Directions/Google Map

For more details contact:

Viraj : 97177 38723 /

Nayantara: 97171 03014 /

Randeep Singh: 98102 85789 /

Who is this workshop for?

1. Anyone who has ever wondered ,”What’s so great about that?” when encountering an apparently ‘famous’ work of art.

2. Anyone interested in art. No prior knowledge of any kind is required.

3. Anyone who indulges in an artistic hobby like writing, photography, painting, music etc., or indulges in Art appreciation of any kind, will benefit greatly from this workshop.

4. Creative Professionals like designers, architects, film-makers, art directors and copywriters will be able to attribute reasons and logic to their intuitive creative output.

5. Any job requires creativity. The lessons from the lateral thinking of the Art world are truly inspiring and will help you think ‘out of the box.’

About Viraj

profile pic“I’m a Creative Director at Global Team Ford. A lot of what we’ll be discussing at the workshop has helped me profoundly in my job.I believe that a country is only as great as the dreams of its artists. Engaging with art expands our minds and enables us to derive maximum meaning from life.I know a lot of very talented people who are intimidated by what they refer to as the ‘esoteric world of Art’. A small initiation on ‘How those Mad Artists think?’ would go long way in removing this unhealthy fear (Art is for everyone!), and help one get the most out of any artistic experience. Hence this workshop.”



All the Madness from the ‘Mad Artists’ workshop at Zorba the Buddha

header image

The agenda of this post is to document the ‘How do those Mad Artists Think? Lessons in creative thinking from the world of Art and Design’ workshop, point out the interactive techniques I used, and give the reader an idea of what to expect, should they participate in the next one.

I write this after reading the feedback forms, and I’m happy to report that there are at least ten more Mad Artists in the world who are keen on experimenting with their talents.

I did learn a few lessons though, as regards the length of the workshop (I ought to contract it), and that 10 am on a Sunday morning is a lousy time to start! A sincere thank you to all those who came. The next time it will probably be a half-day session, from 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm, and end with an Asterix comic style feast for dinner!

My Mission/Workshop manifesto

The ‘How do Mad Artists think?’ workshop provides the participants with tools and strategies to:

1. Extract maximum value from any artwork they encounter

2. Place their own creative products in the context of the larger world of Art

3. Be articulate about the reasons for their intuitive creative output

The Technique used in the Workshop  

One of the main things I wanted to do through this workshop was make people realize that Art is not as esoteric as it’s made out to be. Behind the often tumid prose that surrounds any discussion on Art, is a fundamental artistic process, which I wanted to reveal.

Most of the ‘big words’ that surround Art, all fall into this artistic process in logical places, in an almost formulaic manner.

Often I meet incredibly gifted writers, illustrators and musicians, who practice their crafts prolifically, but in a largely stagnant manner, within a decorated box, utilizing predictable and hackneyed tropes in their renditions.

While there is no harm in this, (the important thing is that they enjoy what they do) I have also experienced that a small initiation to lateral thinking by great artists in a person’s area of interest, at living room conversations or parties, tends to inspire them with a new respect for their talents.

I employed a playful method to demonstrate the ‘logical methods’ behind the lateral thinking to the participants, so that the next time they created anything, they could experiment with their crafts, and be articulate about the nature of their experiments.

Step 1

I randomly placed the ‘big words’ on the floor of the workshop space, in the area enclosed by the circle of chairs.

That's me, randomly pasting 'big words' from the world of Art, all over the floor of the workshop space. 

Randomly pasting ‘big words’ from the world of Art, all over the floor of the workshop space.


Step 2

As people walked in and sat down, the fluorescent chits on the Terrazo got their attention and a process of thinking about the words started from the very outset.

After the introductions, I got people talking about the words pasted on the floor by posing questions like, “What’s the difference between Art and Craft?” or “How important is Skill or Technique in Art?” (the italicized words were pasted on the floor).


I wanted people to arrive at the differences between the meanings of the words, or the relationships between them, through a process of discussion.

For example Craft is different from Art because there is often Use for it. Culture, Tradition, Spirituality and Local Material play an important role, and it relies heavily on learnt Technique.

In this snapshot you can see the words 'Art', 'Ephemerality', 'Dematerialization', 'Design' and 'Spirituality' amongst others

In this snapshot you can see the words ‘Art’, ‘Ephemerality’, ‘Dematerialization’, ‘Design’ and ‘Spirituality’ amongst others

Step 3

At the end of the rich discussion, I rearranged the random words, with the participants help, to form a logical order that described the artistic process.

This made for a lot of interaction and fun (“…put that word here, next to Design, no, no I think it should go before plasticity!”) , and furthered the participants understanding of the words and concepts.

An example of one such logical arrangement is as follows:

Art is a dialogue between Intelligence and Intuition and manifests in a Form that lies in a continuum from Realism to Abstraction. (refer to picture below)


The Arc from Realism to Abstraction 

As the words on the (now logically ordered) post its were being assimilated, I took the participants through a really quick presentation on the arc from Realism to Abstraction (encompassing 500 years in seven slides!), from the Renaissance to Cubism.

Along the way I stressed on the tenacious link between the technological and intellectual advancements of the day and the style, subject matter and concepts in the Art, and urged them to think about what themes, they surmised, Contemporary Art might show.

The following is the slideshow I took them through:

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The slideshow above served the purpose of helping the participants understand the conceptual tools used by Artists in the past to think about the forms and methods they employed.

It was absolutely crucial in fact, for the next section, which was:

A crash course on modern Art movements from Cubism onwards, including examples from Literature, Music, Performance Art etc.

This section encompassed the Futurists, the Abstract Expressionists and the Pop Artists amongst others, and led up to where contemporary Art is today.

Art went a little crazy with Rothko’s painting, Damien Hirst’s antics, Gavin Turk’s pranks and Marina Abramovic’s performances, but the foundation that was laid by the post it discussions right at the beginning, allowed people, who would otherwise have scoffed at the even red canvases and sharks in formaldehyde, to take it all in voraciously.

Russolo, the futurist composer’s music concerts were cited as an example of how music interpreted the movements of the day, as was Pink Floyd’s homage to him (with their helicopter and cash register sounds).

A parallel was drawn between the battle against ephemerality manifested in the the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ style of Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson and Truman Capote’s Gonzo journalism and the Art of Blogging and writing in the New Media Age.

I shared my own poem, A Bystander in Love, in which I try and link the flow of the narrative and the poetic rhythm to the subjects of the poem (i.e love and the oscillating swing).

Open-minded thinking 

To demonstrate the kind of open minded conversations that were taking place, here’s a snippet from the workshop in which I’m responding to a participant who spoke of failing a junior Art class because her teacher said she couldn’t draw.

Rothko, the abstract expressionist (though he didn’t like the label) famously said that colour, not line, ought to be the starting point of painting. He disputed the need to depict objects from nature and treated the canvas as a field of vision without a focal point.

In this manner, with a lateral concept, he bravely re-imagined the direction painting could take.

Post lunch activity – The fun part –  Creating an ‘Artistic Work’

Step1 – Thinking of an issue that has affected you

Ultimately, Art is commentary. It is a creative expression of a passionate thought. I asked the participants the following question:

‘What has affected you deeply in the recent past?’

The participant was further encouraged, through discussion with the group, to think deeply about why they felt strongly about the issue.

The issues that were brought up ranged from the corruption in our country, to the anomalous nature of monogamy, to the impossibility of ‘ever knowing anything’ despite the glut of information on the internet, to, in the case of a girl with a tooth-ache, the ‘futility’ of seeing a dentist (“We ought to fix our hearts first! Go see a cardiac surgeon” she trembled as she spoke!).

Step 2 – Manifesting your feelings in an ‘Artistic Work’

The ‘Artistic Work’ could be completely conceptual, in which case the participant simply had to describe it through language, or it could be a piece of poetry, cellphone photography, performance, or even a rough sketch.

The focus was not on the final product, but on the thinking process behind it.

Abhi (name changed) the internet agnostic, imagined a slate, the oldest metaphor of human knowledge and learning, (but also a metaphor relevant to our times due to the dynamism of its surface) with a crack running through it, so that anything that anyone wrote on it would be incomplete. He imagined a Performance Art piece, Marina Abramovic style,in which people wrote words on the slate, erased them and walked on, giving way to the next person to do the same.

Deep (name changed) troubled by the concept monogamy, wrote the following free-form Haiku titled ‘Unnatural’.

In our world

We would call bees cheats

And flowers whores

The technique of assonance in the ‘bees cheats’ and ‘flowers whores’ was noted as a device used to draw attention to the irony and the metaphors. Deep, an advertising copywriter, used the words side-by-side intuitively, a testament to her brilliant grasp of her craft, but true to the agenda of the workshop, an articulation of the literary device was important.

Naina (name changed) took a photo of dead leaves and equated it with the politics in our country at the moment. In her own words “Even a bad decision is going to pay off.” Among other things, leaves, and their function as agents of photosynthesis, and as humus, inspired her analogy.


The importance of ‘leaving the door open’ for interpretation was stressed in the discussions that followed the presentation of each artistic work.

Art after all is what one makes of it, as much as what the Artist wanted to convey.

A few words about spreading the word 

There were three basic platforms I relied on for spreading the word about the workshop. A Facebook event was the center of it all,  but my blog and the e-mailers I sent through (the absolutely amazing!) Mail Chimp platform, had a big part to play.

Here’s the basic digital strategy I used:


Mail Chimp allowed me to track individual opens, and send reminders (sometimes in the form of a phone call) in case a crucial person had not opened the e-mailer I had sent him/her. A lot of the time this was because Gmail has a separate ‘promotions’ tab, and not everyone checks the mails listed there often.


The discussions were vivid and rich and will certainly help me in my own artistic growth.

But most importantly, like I said in the introduction, a lot of the people agreed that they were Mad Artists too (refer to image below). My agenda of inspiring the confidence to experiment, and of helping the participants to be more articulate about how they used their craft, was largely successful and I am deeply thankful for it.


How do those Mad Artists think? A Workshop at Zorba the Buddha on 6th April (Sunday)

Only at an Art Fair can you spot something as crazy as this. This was taken at the Delhi Art Fair

  1. Synopsis
  2. Mission statement/Workshop manifesto
  3. Contact numbers/e-mail addresses for registration
  4. Structure of the workshop
  5. Takeaway from the workshop
  6. Who is this workshop for?
  7. Date and Time
  8. Workshop Fee
  9. Address and Map


1. Synopsis

What are the lessons in creative thinking from the world of Art and Design?

What does Andy Warhol’s Pop Art have in common with our very own, very successful ‘Chumbak’ and ‘Happily Unmarried’ brands? What is ‘modern art’ anyway, and why is Picasso considered a great artist when even a child could draw like him? What’s really so great about Pink Floyd?

Through vivid discussions leading up to a small, fun project, I’ll help you develop an informed artistic opinion on the things you create, so that you can see for yourself how awesome you really are! 

How do those mad artists think? By the end of the workshop, you’ll tell me!

2. My Mission/Workshop manifesto

  1. Make people aware of the context of their talents in the world of Art. Do you have leanings towards Futurism or are you a Purist, for instance?
  2. Initiate people to the ‘thinking structures’ of great Artists, past and present, from various fields.
  3. By so doing, instil in people the confidence and vocabulary to take their particular talents in innovative directions.
3. Contact details for registration
Prior Registration is required by calling OR e-mailing Viraj/Nayantara
(Zorba’s kitchen needs to know so they can cook up a delicious organic lunch for you!) :
Viraj : 97177 38723 /
Nayantara: 97171 03014 /
Join the Facebook event for updates and interesting links to help you get the most out of the workshop.

4. Structure of the Workshop

This is not a painting class, or a sculpture class, or a photography class. In this workshop you will learn how to ‘think’ like an artist.

  • The first section of the workshop will be a discussion on fundamental questions like ‘What is Art?’, ‘What’s the difference between Art and Craft?’ and ‘What do Painting and Music and Photography and any other medium have in common?’. During the course of these discussions, interesting examples from the multifarious fields of Art (Painting, Film, Music, Writing, Conceptual Art) will be shared so that the conversations have a reference point.
  • In the second section, participants will be asked the question, ‘What has affected you deeply in the recent past?’. The participant will be encouraged, through discussion with the group, to think deeply about why they feel strongly about the issue. Then, after a brief discussion on broad artistic devices like metaphor, verisimilitude, abstraction and hyperbole, the participants will be asked to create an ‘artistic work’ that expresses the issue they feel strongly about.

The artistic work could be completely conceptual, in which case the participant simply has to describe it through language, or it could be a piece of poetry, cellphone photography, performance, or even a rough sketch. The focus is not on the final product, but the thinking process behind it.

The final discussion will be participants responding to each other’s work.

5. What is the takeaway from the workshop?

At the end of the workshop, the participant would have touched, and harnessed the power of his/her own artistic temperament, and possibly have found an affinity for a certain medium of expression like Photography, or Painting, or Writing, which they could pursue vocationally, by going for a ‘Basics of Photography’ class for example.

Importantly, they would have developed a vocabulary to be able to have an informed opinion on any piece of Art from any field.

6. Who is this workshop for?

  1. Any job requires creativity. The lessons from the lateral thinking of the Art world are truly inspiring and will help you think ‘out of the box.’
  2. Creative Professionals like designers, art directors and copywriters will be able to attribute reasons and logic to their intuitive output. (Haven’t you always wanted to give it back to clients who offer unstudied and dumb opinions on your work?)
  3. Anyone who indulges in an artistic hobby like writing, photography, painting, music etc., or indulges in Art appreciation of any kind, will benefit greatly from this workshop.

7. Date and Time

Date and Time:
Sunday, 6th April 2014, 10.00 AM – 5.30 PM

8. Workshop Fee
Rs.800. You can pay at the venue. Includes morning and evening Tea and snacks, and a delicious organic lunch from the Zorba kitchen. Let’s make a lovely day out of it!

9. Address and Map

It’s really easy to find. Just get off at Ghitorni Metro station, and walk for few minutes! (Refer to the map below)

Zorba the Buddha,
7, Tropical Drive, Ghitorni,
M.G. Road, New Delhi, Delhi 110030


For any questions you can also write to us by filling the form below:


The Optimist/Pollyanna’s Whore – A Poem and Blues Rock Song

Eleanor H. Porter's Pollyanna

Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna

The Talking Blues version performed with acoustic guitar and blues harp can be heard here:

A recitation of the poem can be heard here:

The Optimist/Pollyanna’s Whore 

When Gods of War, angry and sore abound

And septic tongues drip green and heavy bile,

He lingers on to sight and sound, he does

Not lose himself to actions terse and vile.

He drives his lance, the heart of chance, right through

And heaves himself, as pawl and ratchet go,

No labour lost, a moments thought is all,

For in the end he’s Pollyanna’s Whore.

In the end he’s Pollyanna’s Whore,

For in the end he’s Pollyanna’s Whore,

Like so many times before,

For in the end he’s Pollyanna’s Whore.

He rakes his skin, and all within, and runs

His tortured hands through wisps of thinning hair

What’s done is done, it’s had its run, he screams

It’s about the next big thing, that I care!

His life’s a mess, such sweet success he craves,

His madness rails from each and every pore,

Ambitions smeared, by YouTube seers, who preach

and lie – in bed with Pollyanna’s Whore.

Lie in bed with Pollyanna’s Whore,

And lie in bed with Pollyanna’s Whore,

Like so many times before,

For in the end he’s Pollyanna’s Whore.

How E-Commerce is Reviving Artistic Typography in Advertising

Kitch typography in a ad

Kitch typography in a ad

An unlikely category, but I think it’s the shop-window phenomenon that’s responsible.

FlipKart, SnapDeal, Myntra, they’re all selling the same stuff. And saying the same stuff (XX% off, Great Deals). The only way they can differentiate themselves is by typography and colour.

Multiple brands on a YouTube ad for

Multiple brands on a YouTube ad for

The Retro-Typography Revival

There’s no one brand colour or custom typeface (they’re all selling multiple brands), so colour and type can finally strive, unrestrained, to achieve a Commercial Artist’s original purpose, which is to have a party and make stuff look delicious, digging like a child in the drawers of graphic design’s musty cupboard of influences.

Modern renditions of decorative motifs like ribbons

Modern renditions of decorative motifs like ribbons and stylized borders

And given that Art Deco, Commercial Art’s most flamboyant period, was driven by a similar gusto, (they had just shed the stifling ‘simplicity’ baggage of the Bauhaus) and went on to stick it to the Germans with decorative motifs, extreme thick-thin contrasts, and Cassandre’s stylized illustrations, it’s no wonder that Myntra’s ads often draw inspiration from this period in form and spirit.

Big Discounts = Big Beautiful Typography = Happy Designers

The clients want it! There’s finally a point of collusion between the suits and designers, in that the numbers need to be big and beautiful. Finally designers can play those old no.7 tricks they love, contrasting BIG numerals and with a teeny-weeny percentage glyphs and ‘now upto’  and ‘off’.

Old style numerals. Notice the teeny-weeny 'o' with the line under it.

Old style numerals. Notice the teeny-weeny ‘o’ with the line under it.



Retro revival is a wave taking place in graphic design presently, and it’s driven by various things, a rejection of Apple’s skeuomorphism, HTML 5’s capabilities in rendering type, its responsive capability (necessitating stylised graphics to compensate for the flat colours) and great screen resolutions, among other things.

But to have the revival enter the advertising world, saddled with corporate typefaces? That’s a breath of fresh air.

Enter designers. Finally!

How NOT to go ‘Yeah Whatever’, at the India Art Fair. Simple ways to evaluate what you see.


Fountain is a 1917 work by Marcel Duchamp

Fountain is a 1917 work by Marcel Duchamp

The India Art Fair is one at the NSIC grounds from 30th to 2nd February, which means, if you’re a working person you only have the rest of today and tomorrow to catch it.

Here are a few simple ways of evaluating some of the stuff you see, so that you walk out feeling enriched and uplifted and emboldened and a little dizzy, instead of thinking ‘Er…nice. But this art stuff is not for me.’

I understand the intimidation people feel at the sight of outrageous sculptures and abstract art. Even though I loved some of the stuff I saw when I was in school, I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe to myself why I thought it was cool. I used feel the need for some sort of formal initiation, before I ‘really got it‘.

That formal initiation happened at art school, and I realized that great art was doing itself an injustice cowering in galleries, making people feel foolish for walking in without invitations.

Art is for everybody, to be interpreted in any way they want, and therein lies the great thing about Art Fairs. It opens Art up, and gives people access.

So go, and behold, and be enriched.

There’s no ONE way feel about a piece of art. The more it leaves suggested, but not said, the better. You are as much of an artist in interpreting the work.

So here’s the broad and simple initiation I wish someone had given me.

On Sculpture

It doesn’t need to be Michelangelo’s David. Anything that takes up space in any form can be called a sculpture. Look beyond recognizable shapes. Look for juxtapositions of objects, or of materials and what they imply.

Totally hypothetically speaking, a tea set, a symbol of ritual and order, all smashed up on a tray, could be an artists way of demonstrating rebellion.

Or Duchamp’s urinal (the fountain, he called it (above)) , a functional object, simply by being positioned in a gallery as an object of contemplation, makes us look at it differently. Duchamp himself said he wanted to  ‘shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation.’

On installation

Installation art may have some linkages to sculpture but its normally concerned with ‘making a scene’ that communicates something. It could be site specific or the ‘scene’ can be set up in different places.

We did an installation in college in which a pair of headphones were suspended from the ceiling of a room in a really old house. When people put on the headphones they could hear recreated sounds reminiscent of the past. For instance, we included a sound clip of sparrows chirping, because sparrows had long abandoned the grounds of the old house.

Look for what its trying to say. Any meaning you take from it is valid.

On Painting

The visual arts are probably easiest to have a reaction to, because we are in the habit of contemplating beauty. Move away from simplistic definitions of beauty and try and get your head involved. Why the choice of colours? Why the elongated forms?

An artist is often trying to say a lot in the most simple way possible, hence the simplification and abstraction.

Sitting Woman by Picasso

Sitting Woman by Picasso

Time and context of the painting are also important to know. For instance, the cubists made paintings showing multiple perspectives partly because they were trying to depict time in a single frame, competing with the nascent medium of film. The cubist style of painting has its roots in context.

A painting/photograph of white noise, may not be a beautiful painting, but could be saying something about the TV culture we live in.


There’s a lot of different mediums out there. Video art, performance art, photography, and various forms of new media. I’ve only focused on three to keep the post short.

Just keep an open mind and walking through the stalls of the Art Fair will be like reading a vivid book, with humour, poignancy, austerity and other emotions thrown in for good measure.

Art is NOT meant to be esoteric, it’s meant to be personal. For you.


Picasso painting from Alaskan Dude on Flickr using Attribution 2.0 Generic license 

On Song Writing – With a Home (like you can hear my sister chopping onions) Recording

woodstock-poster (detail)

I picked up the guitar last evening (after ages!) and strummed and hummed a bit.

The thing is, once you have a blog and four and twenty followers (thank you guys), and are trying to write seriously, ‘na-naaa-na–na’…doesn’t hack it as very lyrical content, however soulful the intonation.

Last night’s song writing process – snatching words out of thin air 

I’ve read that certain artists like Paul McCartney do the melody part first and then stick in the lyrics. Dylan does it the other way around, and writes the words first (he says as much in this great interview, a must watch for any Dylan enthusiast).

I always thought I belonged to the Dylan school, but last night I saw a lot of merit in switching camps.

This is what I wrote last night, and replaced the na–na-naa with:

Ah! if time could go backwards, then we’d see, we were tethered to the weeds, the likes of you and me.

Ah! the pieces of that broken jamboree, knee deep in the givin’ green, lives slippin’ between.

Cold hard livin’, broken songs at seventeen, I have seen.

Cold hard living, dream for me.

Ah! praise for all the kings and the has-beens, ah the things that they have seen, shining through in reams.

And here’s the song, with the lyrics above.

Intelligence, intuition…and good old fashioned luck!

I Just wanted to point out certain groups of words that came about simply because I was trying to be loyal to the meter of the humming.

‘tethered to the weeds’ was one such group, ‘broken jamboree’ was another and so was ‘kings and the has-beens’.

The image of being tethered to weeds, or that of a broken jamboree gave me a kick once I had them down. They seemed vivid and allegorical and I could not have come to them any other way.

When I snatched ‘broken jamboree’ out of thin air (it just happened to pop into my head, no reason) and appended it to the previous line, about ‘lives slipping between’, it took the song in a direction I was not planning, but one that inflamed my brain and gave me a head rush.

When Cat Stevens wrote, ‘When you crack the sky, scrapers fill the air, Will you keep on building higher, till there’s no more room up there?’ from the beautiful ‘Where do the Children Play?’, my feeling (purely conjecture) is he may have arrived at the vivid phrase ‘crack the sky’ this way.

Any artistic process is doing a balancing act between intelligence and intuition says Michael Tilson Thomas in this AMAZING talk on Music and Emotion through Time(below).

I think chance is a very important third component.


Featured image photo adapted from dbking on Flickr using CC by 2.0 license