A lot of people have wondered if my ink drawings have been influenced by mehendi. I can’t say it’s ever been deliberate, though perhaps it’s been floating around on an unconscious level since mehendi has always been a regular feature of celebrations in my maternal family. (Though I was never particularly fond of wearing it; until recently, the last time was 10 years ago – and that only at my mother’s insistence.) But my aunt got married this year, and mehendi was of course a part of it, and somehow this sparked a new interest for me.
It’s fascinating to watch mehendi artists, especially the ones who freestyle (i.e. don’t copy predesigned images). On a conceptual level, the way they construct their designs very much resembles the way I build up the more abstract parts of my drawings (counterbalancing curves, filling bounded spaces with repeated motifs, etc):
There’s quite a difference in the medium, though. Drawing with a pen or brush is very different to drawing with a henna cone; this video belies that it takes some skill just to get the henna paste out of the cone in smooth, even lines, and that certain kinds of strokes are more difficult to render than others. There are also different mixtures of henna paste at different consistencies, which changes how easy it is to apply certain strokes or recover from mistakes: I found it easier to lay down curves and more difficult to draw lines in the thicker paste used at my aunt’s wedding, and the reverse for the thinner paste I’ve been working with at home.
I’m definitely not skilled at this yet, but I’m having fun playing around. So here is the mehendi I just freestyled: for my third time applying it ever, I’m quite pleased!
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