So many good books to look forward to in March!! Here are a few that I’m excited to read! If you’re interested in any of them, be sure to check out my links to learn more and purchase a copy for yourself! All purchases made through the links below go to support this site.

 Anita de Monte Laughs Last
Xochitl Gonzalez
“…mesmerizing novel about a first-generation Ivy League student who uncovers the genius work of a female artist decades after her suspicious death.”

Pub Date: March 5

Thunder Song: Essays
Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe
“….razor-sharp, clear-eyed collection of essays on what it means to be a proudly queer indigenous woman in the United States today”

 Pub Date: March 5

The Inhumans and Other Stories: A Selection of Bengali Science Fiction
Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay
“first English translation of a cult science fiction favorite by Hemendra Kumar Roy, one of the giants of early Bangla literature, and other sf stories from the colonial period in India”

Pub Date: March 12

Say Hello to My Little Friend
Jennine Capó Crucet
“Scarface meets Moby Dick in this groundbreaking, darkly comic novel about a young man’s attempt to capitalize on his mother’s murky legacy—a story steeped in Miami’s marvelous and sinister magic.”

Pub Date: March 5

There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension
Hanif Abdurraqib
“a clarion call to radically reimagine how we think about our culture, our country, and ourselves.”

Pub Date: March 26

Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout
Cal Newport
“Do Fewer Things. Work at a Natural Pace. Obsess over Quality.”

Pub Date: March 5

The Formula: How Rogues, Geniuses, and Speed Freaks Reengineered F1 Into the World’s Fastest-Growing Sport
Joshua Robinson & Jonathan Clegg
“riveting saga of how Formula 1 broke through in America, detailing the eclectic culture of racing obsessives, glamorous settings, gearheads, engineering geniuses, dashing racers, and bitter rivalries that have made F1 the world’s fastest growing sport.”

 March 12

Twelve Trees: The Deep Roots of Our Future
Daniel Lewis
“global exploration of nature and survival as seen via a dozen species of trees that represent the challenges facing our planet”

March 12

All Are Welcome: Wherever You Go
Alexandra Penfold (Author), Suzanne Kaufman (Illustrator)
“…modern and inclusive picture book that celebrates the many milestones of a child’s life ranging from a school play to graduation…”

 March 12

Islas: A Celebration of Tropical Cooking—125 Recipes from the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean Islands
Von Diaz
“…intimate reflection on tropical island cooking’s bold flavors and big stories, with 125 recipes…”

 March 12

Hi, Friends! I hope you had a good reading month! I got a chance to read some wonderful books in February – some old, some new, some yet to come! As always, I have a one-word review of the titles books below, but please head to my shop to learn more about these books and purchase a copy of any that catch your interest! (All purchases made using the link help support my site!)

P.S. Distilling my thoughts down to one word to describe these incredible books is really, really hard!! 🙂 I will have longer, professional reviews coming for The Formula and The Wives, so stay tuned for when those are published! For the others, be sure to follow me on Instagram @gracerajendran for brief reviews as I read them!

The Formula: How Rogues, Geniuses, and Speed Freaks Reengineered F1 Into the World’s Fastest-Growing Sport by Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg (March 12): ENTERTAINING!

A Garden Called Home by Jessica J. Lee and Elaine Chen (March 5): HEART-WARMING!

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie: FUN!

Whalefall by Daniel Kraus: SUSPENSEFUL!

The Gulf by Adam De Souza: EVOCATIVE!

Slow Productivity by Cal Newport (March 5): THOUGHT-PROVOKING!

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer: RIVETING!

The Wives by Simone Gorrindo (April 9): ENGROSSING!

Happy Reading!

Inks & Accoutrements for my 100 Day Project/2024

What is The 100 Day Project?

Every year, starting February 18, thousands of people around the world participate in a free community project known as “The 100 Day Project.” The purpose is simple – to unlock dormant creativity, encourage consistent creative practice and joy, and/or to improve pre-existing skills by repetition and practice. All are welcome to join in and the project can be anything that inspires you. Possible commitments could include: listing three things daily that you are grateful for, spending 10 minutes a day learning a new language, knitting one row of a scarf, or learning one guitar chord each day. It can literally be anything that you would like to spend time learning about or practicing.

What I’m doing for my own 100 Day Project in 2024:

I have a large number of beautiful fountain pen inks and I am really into fine writing and stationery! Unfortunately, I don’t get to use all of my stash regularly, so this project is the perfect way for me to give my inks some love. Therefore, this year, my project will be to swatch my fountain pen ink collection!

What are the supplies I’ll be using? Mainly a paintbrush and dip pens in a 2023 A6 Hobonichi planner. I never got around to using it as a planner last year and, this way, this beautiful journal will have a second life! I also ordered Col-o-dex rotary card refills that I will also be swatching to create a customizable catalogue of all of my ink, present and future! (See photo below. I got mine from Cult Pens.)

I’m looking forward to sharing my progress here and also on Instagram. You can follow me @gracerajendran and the hashtag #GraceRajendran100DayProject .

How long will my project take?

Since it takes time to create the pages, photograph things, and write up posts, I am going into this realistically noting that I will take more than 100 chronological days to complete this project. And I am absolutely fine with that! So many times, I find myself rushing through challenges and tasks to post an end-result on social media or meet some other arbitrary deadline. We have so many deadlines in our (day) jobs anyway, that I want to leave them out of my creative practice as much as I can. So, for this project, I want to take my time, enjoy the process, learn what I want to learn, and do things as slowly as I need, or want, to.

How you can share your own project:

All are welcome to share their 100 Day Project progress on Instagram using the hashtags: #The100DayProject and #DoThe100DayProject.

Some of my inks

Col-o-dex rotary cards

Here are the new releases in February that I’m excited for! I have reviewed JoyFull so when that review is published, I’ll link to it here and make a separate post for it but, in the meantime, here are some brief blurbs from the publisher. As always, I’ve created a collections page on my store where you can learn more about each book and author and purchase a copy if you’d like!

MY BELOVED LIFE by Amitava Kumar
An absorbing, exceptionally moving novel that traces the arc of a man’s life, an ordinary life made exceptional by the fact that he has loved and has been loved in turn. (Feb 27, 2024; Knopf)

THE FOX WIFE by Yangsze Choo
Manchuria, 1908. In the last years of the dying Qing Empire, a courtesan is found frozen in a doorway. Her death is clouded by rumors of foxes, which are believed to lure people by transforming themselves into beautiful women and handsome men. Bao, a detective with an uncanny ability to sniff out the truth, is hired to uncover the dead woman’s identity.
(February 13, 2024; Henry Holt & Co.)

THE BOOK OF LOVE by Kelly Link
In the long-awaited debut novel from bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link, three teenagers become pawns in a supernatural power struggle.
(February 13, 2024; Random House)

SMOKE AND ASHES: Opium’s Hidden Histories by Amitav Ghosh
Ghosh unravels the impact of the opium trade on global history and in his own family―the climax of a yearslong project.
(February 13, 2024; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

1927. Olivia “Livy” West is a fearless young pilot with a love of adventure. She yearns to cross oceans and travel the skies. When she learns of the Dole Air Race—a high-stakes contest to be the first to make the 2,400 mile Pacific crossing from the West Coast to Hawai’i—she sets her sights on qualifying. But it soon becomes clear that only men will make the cut.
(February 6, 2024; MIRA)

An abandoned English manor. A peculiar missing portrait. A cozy, deviously clever murder mystery, perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Anthony Horowitz.
(February 13, 2024; Hanover Square Press)

JOYFULL by Radhi Devlukia-Shetty
A passionate self-taught cook and nutritionist, Radhi Devlukia-Shetty’s JoyFull is abundant and inviting. With more than 125 plant-based recipes, it is designed to balance health and satisfaction.
(February 27, 2024; S&S/Simon Element)

In this uplifting memoir, a professor and activist shares what birds can teach us about life, social change, and protecting the environment. Trish O’Kane is an accidental ornithologist. In her nearly two decades writing about justice as an investigative journalist, she’d never paid attention to nature. But then Hurricane Katrine destroyed her New Orleans home, sending her into an emotional tailspin.
(February 27, 2024; Ecco)

THE CURE FOR BURNOUT: How to Find Balance and Reclaim Your Life by Emily Ballesteros
In The Cure for Burnout, burnout management coach and TikTok influencer Emily Ballesteros combines scientific and cultural research, her expertise in organizational psychology, and the tried-and-true strategies she’s successfully implemented with clients around the globe to demystify burnout for our post-pandemic world – and set you on a path toward a life of personal and professional balance. 
(February 13, 2024; The Dial Press)

ON LOCATIONS: Lessons Learned from My Life On Set with The Sopranos and in the Film Industry by Mark Kamine and Mike White
This page-turning account of starting at the lowest rung on the production ladder among enormously famous & outrageously demanding people will be devoured for its insights, gossip, humor, & storytelling. Married and with a child, the author takes unpaid gigs to get a foot in the door, and eventually ends up working on all seasons of The Sopranos, often named the best TV show ever.
(February 6, 2024; Steerforth)

BIG MEG: The Story of the Largest and Most Mysterious Predator that Ever Lived by Tim Flannery and Emma Flannery
Internationally bestselling author and renowned scientist Tim Flannery and his daughter, scientist Emma Flannery, deliver an informative-yet-intimate portrait of the megalodon, an extinct shark and the largest predator of all time.
(February 6, 2024; Atlantic Monthly Press)

What books are you looking forward to in February and are there any here that you’re interested in checking out? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram!

Happy Reading!

The ocean has been on my mind for weeks now… 


Receiving a beautiful, old copy of Moby-Dick for Christmas has really made me want to read some books set on the ocean this year. I’m not ready to re-read Moby-Dick (again), but I’ve never read Hemingway’s Old Man And The Sea and I’ve been wanting to for a while so that’s on my list for March.

However, I’ll be starting off the year with a book that was just published this month and that I’m eager to read! Wild and Distant Seas by Tara Karr Roberts. I talked about it in a couple of posts this month already if you’d like to read more about it!

And, in February, I will be reading Whalefall by Daniel Kraus because I’ve been intrigued by it for months now! Publisher MTV Books describes it as a “scientifically accurate thriller about a scuba diver who’s been swallowed by an eighty-foot, sixty-ton sperm whale and has only one hour to escape before his oxygen runs out.”

I’m not going to write out my list for the entire year because I want to be able to add things that I may discover as the months go by.

You can read more about and purchase copies of these books on my page HERE.

I LOVE literary totes and have quite the collection – totes I’ve bought, totes I’ve been sent by publishers – and now, it’s a dream come true that my own art is on a literary tote too!!! This features a quote from the Seattle Arts & Lectures event back in September 2023 with Ann Patchett in conversation with Melinda French Gates. I was struck by the beauty of something she said during this event – “We, as humans, communicate with stories.” – so I illustrated the quote, which now lives on forever in the form of these beautiful tote bags available through Seattle Arts & Lectures.

The totes are 100% cotton in a natural canvas color, 15″W x 14″H x 3″D, with 22″ webbed handles in forest green.

You can purchase the tote bags and support the transformational work of Seattle Arts & Lectures HERE.

Over the past few years, our new family tradition has been to gather on New Year’s Day and make pooris and potatoes, while working on a jigsaw puzzle all day. Pooris are a puffy, deep-fried Indian flat bread and they taste especially good with a spicy, tangy, potato curry. It is one of my favorite meals and my mother made it for almost all of my childhood birthdays!

My mom is such an amazing cook that I wanted to share her recipe for these potatoes with you all, in case you would also like to try making some! So, without further ado, here’s the recipe to Shakunthala’s Potato Bhaji:



3 medium Russet potatoes cooked in water with skin. Remove skin after it is cooked and 

coarsely mash. 

1 medium yellow onion, chopped 

1 teaspoon black mustard 

1 teaspoon of urad dal 

2 whole dry red chilies 

2 hot green chili peppers, split

5-6 curry leaves 

1 inch fresh ginger finely chopped 

1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric powder 

1 tablespoon lemon juice 

Salt to taste 

2-3 Tablespoon vegetable oil 

2 tablespoon cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped 

1 cup water 


Step 1: Heat oil in a wide pan and first add mustard and when it pops, add urad dal, dry red chilies, green chilies, curry leaves, ginger, onion, turmeric powder, and salt continuing to sauté until the onion becomes translucent. 

Step 2: Add water and lemon juice and bring it to boil, then add potato and cilantro while mixing well until it is thick and loose. Transfer to serving dish and enjoy!

And here’s what pooris look like! If you don’t feel like making pooris, you can also enjoy these potatoes with rice or stuffed into a tortilla!

I read quite a few books in January!

  • Two were for a book club: Chain-Gang All-Stars (for my book club at work, since we will be hosting the author soon) and The Mysterious Affair At Styles (for the Official Agatha Christie reading challenge)
  • One was for my Ocean-themed Reading Challenge: Wild and Distant Seas
  • Two were for professional review: JoyFull and Masquerade (I’ll post the reviews when they are published)
  • Two were books that I received from publishers: The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West and The Framed Women of Ardemore House
  • And I am slowly reading through a copy of The Pickwick Papers this year as that was a holiday gift from a friend last year. I’ll be reading a little bit of it every month this year until I’m done.

    I don’t rate the books I read as I don’t like comparing things that are so different and wonderful in their own ways. If I don’t like something, I just don’t finish it or post about it. With these posts, I just want to share the books I loved so that you can check it out for yourself and see if it suits your tastes! Instead of a rating system, I like to use one word or phrase to describe books and, if you’re interested in longer reviews, please check out my Instagram (@gracerajendran) ! :

    I’ve made a collection of all of these books on, where you can also read more about them or purchase a copy for yourself. If you do, be sure to let me know on Instagram or in the comments here – I would love to hear what you were excited to read!

    I really enjoyed reading all of these and got to experience a wide range of genres – fiction, speculative fiction, classics, fantasy, mystery, and even a cookbook! I usually like to read an art instruction book or a nature book during the month as well but, as you can see, I really didn’t have time to add those in – January really did fly by for me! How did it feel for you?

    Happy New Year! May 2024 bring you many joys and wonderful books to read!

    In case you’re looking for a new read in the new year, here are some January releases that I’m particularly excited about. This post is all fiction: literary, romance, science fiction, etc. I will post another list soon for nonfiction.

    If you’re interested in reading more about each book or purchasing them, click on the book title to be sent to the book on Every purchase using one of my links helps support my website. You can also check out my entire January 2024 Fiction list on by clicking here: January 2024 Fiction Book Releases


    WILD AND DISTANT SEAS by Tara Karr Roberts (Jan 2)

    You all know how much I love Moby Dick and books about the ocean in general, so you can guess why I’m excited for this one!
    From the publisher’s page: “Wild and Distant Seas takes Moby-Dick as its starting point, but Tara Karr Roberts brings four remarkable women to life in a spellbinding epic all her own.”


    MARTYR! by Kaveh Akbar (Jan 23)
    The publisher’s blurb calls this: “A newly sober, orphaned son of Iranian immigrants, guided by the voices of artists, poets, and kings, embarks on a remarkable search for a family secret that leads him to a terminally ill painter living out her final days in the Brooklyn Museum.”


    THE BULLET SWALLOWER by Elizabeth Gonzalez James (Jan 23)
    I got to meet Elizabeth on a pre-pub party over the summer and, therefore, got to read her incredible book early! This is a beautifully-written magical realism set in the American West. It will fill you with wonder and give you so much to ponder long after you read the last pages.

    The publisher says: “The Bullet Swallower tackles border politics, intergenerational trauma, and the legacies of racism and colonialism in a lush setting and stunning prose that asks who pays for the sins of our ancestors, and whether it is possible to be better than our forebears.”


    THE STORM WE MADE by Vanessa Chan (Jan 2)

    I was lucky to meet Vanessa during a pre-pub tour and so got to read this amazing book early!
    I was captivated from the first page. The storytelling is amazing and I really felt so much for the characters and their experiences in Malaya (present-day Malaysia) around WWII.

    Publisher MarySue Ricci Books says: “A spellbinding, sweeping novel about a Malayan mother who becomes an unlikely spy for the invading Japanese forces during WWII—and the shocking consequences that rain upon her community and family.”



    I also had the pleasure of meeting Janice last summer on a pre-pub tour and got to read her book early. This is an exciting and thrilling mystery told in the form of transcripts,
    Interviews, emails, WhatsApp messages etc. The story is very intriguing and the format of the novel makes the reader feel like an active and immersed participant!

    Publisher Atria Books describes this as being “about a true crime journalist who revives a long-buried case about a cult—and finds herself too close to the story.”


    YOUR UTOPIA by Bora Chung and translated by Anton Hur (Jan 30)

    Publisher Algonquin Books describes it as “From the internationally acclaimed author of Cursed Bunny, in another thrilling translation from Korean by Anton Hur, this collection shares tales of loss and discovery, idealism and dystopia, death and immortality. ​”

    “For so work the honeybees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom.” – William Shakespeare

    One of the highlights of my summer was visiting some nearby lavender farms and, of course, where there is lavender, there are bees! In particular, bumble bees and honeybees are two of the main pollinators of lavender. These plants are very attractive to pollinators because they are rich in pollen and nectar and produce a large amount of linalool (a naturally occurring alcohol that occurs in many flowers and spice plants).

    Honeybees are any of a group of insects in the family Apidae (order Hymenoptera) that in a broad sense includes all bees that make honey. However, what is commonly known as the domestic honeybee usually refers to the single species, Apis mellifera. Apis is Latin for “bee”. The first Apis bees appear in European fossils at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary – about 33 million years ago. However, these bees are thought to have their origins in South and South-East Asia.

    Honeybees are social insects and live together in hives or nests. A colony generally contains one queen bee, a female; up to a few thousand drone bees, or males; and tens of thousands of female worker bees, the latter of which perform dancing movements inside the hive to communicate the location, quality, and distance of food sources to their fellow hive-mates.

    Honeybees obtain all of their nutritional requirements from a combination of pollen and nectar. Pollen is the only natural protein source for honeybees and nectar is collected by worker bees as a source of water and carbohydrates in the form of sucrose.

    During the winter, the bees draw closer together in the hive to conserve heat and, when nectar sources are low, the worker bees drag the drones out of the nest and do not let them return, thereby starving them and reducing the consumption of winter honey stores.

    Most bees are polylectic, which means that they gather pollen from a wide variety of flowers. However, some bees collect pollen only from flowers of certain families or certain colors. Oligolectic bees gather pollen from only a few related kinds of flowers, which their mouths are adapted to.


    The head is the area of information gathering and food input. It contains the eyes and the mouthparts.

    The thorax is the area of locomotion and contains 2 pairs of wings, 3 pairs of legs, and 3 pairs of spiracles for letting air in. Legs have pollen baskets, which is, as the name suggests, used to carry the pollen around. Its special concave shape and hairy edges help to keep the load in position while the bee flies.

    The abdomen is the area of digestion and reproduction.

    The sting is attached to the digestive tract and is designed, with barbs, to prevent the sting from being pulled out. When a worker bee stings, it tries to get away, but the barbs prevent the sting from coming out, so the sting breaks off and is left behind. The sting and accompanying venom gland will then continue to work on their own to pump venom into the victim, while simultaneously releasing a pheromone to mark the victim, alerting other bees to continue to sting them.

    Lavender is such an enchanting color – pretty and serene. As a color – a combination of red and blue – it takes its name from lavender flowers. The word lavender, itself, comes from the Latin word lavare which means “to wash” and it’s no wonder, as the color evokes a clean crispness and is often found in soaps and bath and beauty products. Lavender flowers were used as perfumes since ancient Egyptian times.

    Lavender is a gentle form of purple, a color used to signify royalty. And, indeed, lavender has a subdued and elegant feel to it. Often representing Spring and youthfulness, lavender has come to be one of the pastel hues associated with that season.

    It is common to find that the word “lavender” can represent several slightly differing shades of pale purple, and that also makes sense since, if you look closely at lavender blossoms, there are many variations of purple hues contained within.

    To mix lavender, you will need to combine a warm red with a cool blue. If you use more of the red, you will end up with the color lilac. If you use more of the blue, you will arrive at lavender. You can then add white to your mixture to create various shades and intensities.

    “Tiger & Luna” Art by Grace K. Rajendran

    July 29th is celebrated annually as International Tiger Day, to raise awareness about these gorgeous, majestic – and endangered – creatures! I love tigers and often celebrate them through my art. In this post, I’ll be sharing some of my tiger art with you, as well as some fun facts about tigers and notes on their conservation.

    Fun Fact: Tigers have been around for over 2 million years

    “Anxious Tiger” art by Grace K. Rajendran

    Historical Background

    International Tiger Day was started in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia, when it was discovered that 97% of wild tigers had vanished since the beginning of the 20th century.

    Several countries, including India, Russia, and China, pledged to protect tigers. Thirteen tiger range countries collaborated to form TX2 and committed to doubling the tiger population by 2022, which was the Chinese year of the tiger.

    To read more about TX2, check out the World Wildlife Fund’s TX2 page HERE.

    Fun Fact:  Their stripe patterns are all unique, just like human fingerprints!

    “Yellow Tiger Garden” Art by Grace K.Rajendran

    Fun Fact: Unlike most cats, tigers love to swim!

    Some Conservation Highlights

    In India, Project Tiger, which was started in the early 1970s, with 268 tigers now has over 3000! This great news also illustrates how tied together issues of ecology and conservation are because, with the growing number of tigers in the wild, one now has to address issues of habitat and prey loss and the potential for tigers to enter spaces with humans more and more. Some of the ways this is being addressed is to look at development through a lens of ecological preservation: for example, creating safe passages for tigers and other wildlife when highways are built and preserving large swaths of natural habitat.

    “Tiger & Tulip” Art by Grace K. Rajendran

    As we celebrate the good news, we also need to keep in mind that there is still a way to go. On average, two tigers are rescued from traffickers very week and there are still more tigers in captivity than in the wild.

    To learn more about ways help tigers, check out legitimate nature organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund for more info and resources.

    Fun Fact: India has the greatest number of wild tigers, and this makes up over half the tiger population of the world!

    “Tiger Queen” Art by Grace K. Rajendran

    “The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender, and with the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows.”

    -William C. Bryant

    Recently, I was transported to the delights of the French countryside right here in Washington State, at the annual Sequim Lavender Festival! For three days, the entire town is adorned in purple flags heralding the location of the festivities and several dozen friendly volunteers are ready and waiting to guide you around the many attractions.

    The sun-drenched landscape of Sequim is already dotted with pretty and fragrant lavender plants on every city block but is especially dazzling from June through September, when the farms are painted in large vibrant swatches of purples, greens, and whites.

    The name lavender originates from the Latin verb “lavare,” which means “to wash.”

    There is also that delightful three-day festival that I mentioned earlier, with live music, delicious food, scrumptious lavender deserts and lemonade, and vendors with art, jewelry, culinary treats, and bundles and wreaths of fresh lavender, of course!

    I treated myself to some sweet little lavender wands, also known as lavender bottles, a traditional flowercraft from Victorian times, and also some lavender sachets for family and friends, and fragrant bundles of fresh cut lavender.

    “To make a perfume, take some rose water and wash your hands in it, then take a lavender flower and rub it with your palms, and you will achieve the desired effect.”

    -Leonardo da Vinci

    Lavender represents serenity, purity, and calmness.

    We also visited a very charming and picturesque local farm, Purple Haze Lavender Farm, where I took these photos of the fields. The beautiful farmhouses and gift shop on the property perfectly complemented the purple fields and were picturesque additions to the photos.

    The gift shop was filled with lavender treasures – fresh cut bundles, lotions, soaps, candles, and honey! There was live bluegrass music and picnic tables in the shade if you wanted to take a break after strolling through the fields.

    Lavender originated in the Mediterranean region, northeast Africa, and southwestern Asia, where it has grown for over 2,000 years.

    There are over 45 species of lavender and more than 450 different varieties.

    And, of course, where there is lavender, there are also hundreds of buzzing bees, honey and Bumble, and I will soon (in the next few weeks) be doing an entire post on these important little pollinators, so be sure to stay tuned for that! You can also sign up for my newsletter to be sure you don’t miss out!

    “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

    -Leonardo da Vinci

    July is World Watercolor Month and over on Instagram, I’m creating a painting (almost) every day to celebrate! I’ll upload them once a week onto this website, but if you’re on Instagram, be sure to follow along my progress there in real time! And definitely check out the official World Watercolor Month account on Instagram as well.

    Watercolor is my first love when it comes to art! It’s how I found my voice and confidence as an artist and what I used to create the first of my pieces that were accepted in a show. I am fond of creating in many different types of art media but to this day I still think of myself as a watercolorist first.

    I love painting skies in watercolor and couldn’t resist creating the above homage to sunsets in the Caribbean, where I grew up. Every night, the skies and the ocean would shine like liquid gold. The ocean is what I miss most from my childhood. I live on the coast now too and it’s wonderful -I actually wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. However, somehow, the ocean is not quite the same.

    It’s beautiful here where I live now, but in a colder, starker, greyer way – which I am also incredibly drawn to – but every now and then, you miss warm sand between your toes, soft like silk; and so much blue that your heart can’t help but be happy. The thing with the tropics is that everything has an intensity of 10 : colors, scents, tastes! The sea is turquoise, the flowers are heady, the fruits taste like the sun.

    Speaking of tropical flowers….

    “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”

    -Vincent Van Gogh

    “…every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”

    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Emerson was talking about the stars, but I think the quote fits this painting strikingly well!

    Stay tuned for Week 2 paintings … in a week!

    “Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.”
    – H.P. Lovecraft

    Throughout June, I participated in the FOR PLANET OCEAN art challenge on Instagram. Be sure to check out the @ForPlanetOcean account to learn more about this challenge and its organizers.

    There were five prompts:

    • Coral Reefs
    • Blue Mind
    • Artivism: Protect What You Love
    • Deep Sea: Mysterious Depths
    • Seagrass: Planting A Future

    Having grown up on an island, I love the ocean and feel most completely at peace when I am standing on the shore, looking out at the waves and the endless blue. I always welcome any opportunity to observe the ocean and its creatures and to try and capture some of their awe-inspiring beauty and mystery in my art.

    Coral Reefs

    “I can mention many moments that were unforgettable and revelatory. But the most single revelatory three minutes was the first time I put on scuba gear and dived on a coral reef. It’s just the unbelievable fact that you can move in three dimensions.”

    – David Attenborough

    Coral reefs are stunning underwater ecosystems that rival rainforests in their biodiversity! Sadly, our coral reefs are threatened by pollution, climate change, and irresponsible fishing practices and some of them have already been completely destroyed. Not only are they incredibly beautiful to look at but they support the lives of many, many marine creatures – so we definitely need to step up and consider how our actions impact them.

    Blue Mind

    “Water quiets all the noise, all the distractions, and connects you to your own thoughts.”

    -Wallace J. Nichols, from Blue Mind

    Artivism: Protect What You Love

    “The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”

    -Jacques Cousteau

    Art can help raise awareness for causes and influence change. Nature Art can inspire people to learn more about the natural world around them and find ways to get involved with conservation.

    In this piece I wanted to illustrate the beauty and biodiversity of the flora and fauna that can be found in our oceans. We still haven’t explored all of the mysteries that the waters hold but we are causing them a great deal of strain with over-fishing, pollution, and the effects of climate change to name a few.

    Oceans regulate the Earth’s temperature and generate most of the oxygen that we breathe. Marine ecosystems, such as mangroves and seagrasses help store a lot of carbon emissions, and so are a vital part of the fight against climate change.

    Deep sea habitats are incredibly biodiverse and have up to (and maybe more than) 10 million species! And the vast majority of the ocean has yet to be explored still! I don’t want to go into all of the ways in which the ocean’s flora and fauna benefit humans – because I don’t think that’s the point. Instead, we need to remember that our actions directly impact the lives of these precious creatures, so we need to do our best to care for them.

    Deep Sea: Mysterious Depths

    “Although we couldn’t have been more different — I, a terrestrial vertebrate constrained by joints and bound to air; she, a marine mollusk with not a single bone, who breathed water — she was clearly as curious about me as I was about her.”

    -Sy Montgomery, The Soul of An Octopus

    The fourth prompt of @ForPlanetOcean was Deep Sea: Mysterious Depths and I decided to do a surreal colored pencil drawing of an octopus – because they are beautiful, mysterious, intelligent (classified as the most intelligent invertebrate), recognize people they commonly see, playful, can use tools, open jars of food, and solve puzzles… so many cool facts!! 

    Also, the giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) can be found off the coast of Washington State, where I live, so I want to give them some art-y love!

    This is the largest octopus species, with a record of a 71-kilogram (157-pound) one weighed live.

    While it can be found to ocean depths of about 4,920 feet (1500 m), it is mostly found in shallow waters to 16 feet (5 m) deep.

    Seagrass: Planting A future

    “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

    — Jacques Cousteau

    I adore turtles so I had to include one in this painting!

    Seagrasses are the only flowering plants that grow underwater in marine environments. They got the name because of the long, blade-like appearance of many of the different species in the group.

    Seagrasses spread along long stretches to look like terrestrial grasslands and they contain an incredible range of biodiversity! For example, they provide a nursery for baby turtles of all species as well as food for all ages of green turtles… which is how Green Turtles also get their green color!!

    Unfortunately a great number of seagrass species are also listed as Threatened or Near-Threatened due to a combination of factors such as storms, disease, pollution, and human activity along the coast, such as motorboats, fishing, and development.

    This art challenge has been in support of Project Seagrass, an organization working towards the protection of seagrass meadows. Be sure to check them out for more information and ways to help.

    Crow seen at the lake. It was a beautiful day – so many little creatures around! Ducks on the water and flying overhead; chattering crows; and butterflies. The sun twinkled on the water. It definitely felt like summer.
    I love watching the ducks bobbing up and down on the water. So peaceful. And the way the light catches all of the iridescence on their necks – the blues, the greens, the purples – absolutely gorgeous!
    Steller’s Jays – one of my favorite backyard birds. They have such vivacious personalities! And, that streak of blue against the greenery as they swoop across the garden is always stunning!
    Saw this little cutie on a leaf during one of my walks in the park. They always bring a smile to my face!
    And, last but definitely not least, who doesn’t adore the little black capped chickadees?! They are just the sweetest! And this little one was foraging for food in the bush outside my apartment building.
    An illustration of an owl by artist Grace Rajendran, featuring a quote from author Jennifer Ackerman ("What An Owl Knows").

    While “owls are not omnipresent for us in the way songbirds are, they’re present for us in some deeper way or place, where night lives inside us.”

    -Jennifer Ackerman, in “What An Owl Knows”

    This was one of my favorite quotes from What An Owl Knows: The New Science of The World’s Most Enigmatic Bird by Jennifer Ackerman (The Genius of Birds). If you’re intrigued by owls as well or curious to learn more about their natural history, biology, and lore, be sure to check out my Starred Review of this fascinating book in the Nature & Environment section of the July 7th issue of Shelf Awareness (CLICK HERE).

    Book cover of "What An Owl Knows" by Jennifer Ackerman.
    Pink rose

    June was National Rose Month and I saw SO many beautiful roses! My parents’ rose garden was in all of its magnificent glory – wild and gorgeous. My parents spend hours each day tending to their garden and it really shows! All of these blooms are from that garden.

    Five pink roses

    “It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.”

    -Maud Hart Lovelace

    Peach-colored rose

    “Come out here where the roses have opened. Let soul and world meet.”

    – Rumi

    Whitish-yellow rose with pink petal edges

    “Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.
    “Do you have the answers? And if you do,
    would you tell me?”

    -Mary Oliver, Felicity

    Creamy orange roses

    There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.”

    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Creamy orange rose

    “Love is like the wild rose.”

    – Emily Brontë

    Two fuchsia roses
    Rose bushes with pink and dusty yellow roses

    “There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.”

    – Henri Matisse

    Two pink roses
    Pink rose with a second pink rose in background

    “And the roses—the roses! Rising out of the grass, tangled round the sun-dial, wreathing the tree trunks and hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long garlands falling in cascades—they came alive day by day, hour by hour.”

    -Frances Hodgson Burnett

    Climbing roses with fuchsia blossoms
    Five photographs of various pink flowers in a garden, along with four color dots in different shades of pink and the phrase "Today's palette: Beautiful Pinks."

    I’m so lucky to be surrounded by so many beautiful shades of pink these days – gorgeous flowers everywhere, including my parents’ rose garden, which is where I took these photos above! And, since there is so much pink around me, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about one of my favorite colors, pink, which is often featured in my art.

    Here are a few facts about this lovely color: 


    The color pink takes its name from a flower called Dianthus plumarius, a plant in the Carophyllaceae family. That flower is sometimes commonly referred to as “pink” because of its frilled edges. The word “pink” used to refer to a perforated pattern and that’s why those scissors with the zigzag edge are called “pinking shears.”

    In other languages, the color we know as pink is named after roses instead! 


    Pink is one of the more common flower colors and is the result of natural pigments called anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid, which also produce the pink color of some fruit. Anthocyanins are just one category of flavonoid and, in addition to pink, are also the reason we have red, blue, and purple flowers.  Over 9000 different types of flavonoids are responsible for all the beautiful colors we see in botany. Those pretty, bright colors help ensure flowers’ reproductive success by attracting pollinators.


    How about the pink that we find in our art supplies? Where do they get their color from?

    Those pinks were originally derived from rose madder dye extracted from the root of the Rubia tinctorum plant, originally found in India, the Middle East, Egypt, and the Mediterranean. Evidence of madder as a dye has been found in paintings and decor from these regions as early as 1500 BC.

    Madder contains two dyes: alizarin and purpurin. In the late 1800s, the alizarin portion of madder was chemically synthesized, shifting the origin of pink dye from the natural rose madder plant to the less expensive synthetic alizarin. Nowadays, the more light-resistant quinacridone has predominantly replaced alizarin.

    And if those pinks aren’t pink enough for you, there’s always the pinkest pigment ever developed – simply called “Pink” and created by UK artist Stuart Semple in 2016. You can read more about Stemple’s pigment (and his ongoing feud with fellow artist Anish Kapoor over the blackest black) HERE.

    For all you artists out there: The next time you bring out your paints, be sure to take a few minutes to see if your reds and pinks are labeled “madder”, “alizarin” or “quinacridone”!

    Until next time, dear friends, Happy Creating!

    If you enjoy colors are much as I do, be sure to follow me on Instagram, @gracerajendran, where I regularly do a Today’s Palette post, highlighting the many gorgeous hues I see while I’m out and about! I’ll be posting a Today’s Palette single- color exploration similar to this one about once a month on this website. And, for more content, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter, Grace Notes (form at right)!