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Energy in canvas: Valley mom and daughter Ranita and Alraune Chowdhury grow in arts | Photo gallery
In the warmth of a lazy Monday evening, Alraune Chowdhury paints. She squeezes out fingernail length amounts of cobalt violet hue and phthalo blue onto ivory pallet paper. She mixes her colors with linseed oil until they glow and then carefully rounds the tip of her brush into a point. Leaning back in her chair, Alraune considers her nylon stretch canvas.
A friend has commissioned her to paint a portrait of purple and blue dahlias. She glances at a freshly cut dahlia to right and strokes the curve of the petals. After dipping her moistened brush in the glistening oils, she brings a garden to life in her little studio overlooking Mount Si.
Alraune’s mother, Ranita Chowdhury, said that her daughter has been painting since she was a baby. Both mother and daughter take joy in color and feel energized when holding a brush. Through extensive travel, the Chowdhurys have expanded their subject matter, technique and color palette, reflecting various cultures. Although balancing corporate demands and the artist lifestyle can be a challenge, Alraune believes painting is worth it.
Even as a toddler, creating art gave Alraune great joy.
“She would draw these messes of things and I would barely be able to make out some kind of figure and shape,” Ranita said. “I could see it was something and I knew she could really do it some day.”
At 15, Alraune painted Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. The painting portrays two women wearing glittering saris and head jewelry setting candles in floating clay lanterns. Ranita said that the bright orange, blue and red paint seemed to dance off the canvas.
“I was very proud,” Ranita said. She had always believed her daughter would be a great artist and now Alraune had proven her right.
Both mother and daughter are members of the Mount Si Artist Guild which meets the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at the North Bend Community Center. The purpose of the guild is to provide an encouraging, supportive environment for the Snoqualmie Valley arts. During monthly meetings, guild members teach each other new skills, media and techniques.
In October, the guild hopes to publish a collection of Snoqualmie Valley artists’ work and stories in honor of Gloria Danielson. Danielson was one of the first members of the Mount Si Artist Guild. Alraune describes Danielson as a great artist, natural leader, and a gentle spirit. Danielson died of cancer last October.
“She never let the disease bother her, painting away till the very end,” said Alraune. “When she no longer had use of one hand, ravaged by swollen lymph nodes, she just continued painting with her other hand.”
Danielson’s love of people and the Snoqualmie Valley has inspired Alraune. The Chowdhurys love the Northwest.
Snoqualmie isn’t the first place the Chowdhurys have lived. The family is originally from Calcutta and has lived in Munich, Mumbai, Apple Valley, Miss., and now the Valley.
“I feel like I am from everywhere,” said Alraune. “I’ve taken a part of every place we’ve lived.” Alraune’s pallette reflects her geographical experience, warm browns and reds from Europe, cool greens and blues from America, and bright oranges and fuchsias from India.
“Each place has something unique that can be taken away,” Ranita said. Ranita has done a series of faces from people around the globe. Currently she is working on painting the seven wonders of the world.
“You get to know so many stories and faces,” Ranita said. Both mother and daughter revel in the joy of creating. Once Alraune starts a piece, she is likely to stay up all night working.
“Painting gives me so much energy,” said Alraune. “But sometimes it’s hard to balance the demands of corporate America with the artist’s lifestyle.”
Several weeks ago, Alraune felt the pinch. She had committed to paint four pieces for the Snoqualmie Art Show and figured she had a week to do them. Each night that week something came up at work and painting didn’t happen.
On Thursday night, hours away from the show, Alraune only had one painting finished. She loaded up on tea and coffee and turned on her old-time radio to NPR and 1930s swing music. By 2:30 a.m. Alraune had three pieces finished and ready for display at the show.
“If there is something you really love doing,” said Alraune. “You will find a way.”
Kira Clark/Staff Photos
Alraune works on a bright dahlia painting; She says that painting gives her energy and great happiness.
Above, Alraune depicts colorful domes in Kallmunz, Bavaria. She stayed up until 2 a.m., to make sure that her paintings would be ready for display at the Snoqualmie Art show.
Below, a brightly painted home in Dragor, Denmark, painted by Alraune.
Alraune Chowdhury, mixing paint, in her studio overlooking the Cascades. Below, a close-up of Alraune working on her dahlias work.