April 20, 2019
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Living in my dreams with actual colors

Preethi Vinod Chellappan, a Bangalore based ambitious artist hailing from Kerala creates marvellous art through colours. ‘A self-taught artist, who says passion is her best teacher and appreciation is her greater motivation.’

Her exploration and experiment with various colour medium include acrylic, watercolour, oil, dry pastels, charcoal, graphite, resin ink to name a few brought her significant ability in the art form.

About your Career and Family?

I’m an alumnus of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, a central residential school and I hold an MSc degree in Physics. I started my career as a teacher and worked with several higher secondary schools.
However, my love for drawing and designing compelled me to take a Diploma in Multimedia which gave me an opportunity to work as a Graphic designer at various private firms. It’s from my career life from Infosys, I started to reflect with my passion more deeply and nothing was more satisfying than ‘playing and getting my hands dirty’ with actual colours..!

All through these stages of my life, my passion for art and drawing was looming through my mind. I finally took a significant leap in choosing art as my career 7 years ago. I’m blessed to have strong support from my whole family and close peers. Especially from my Husband Vinod Kunju and daughter Vaishnavi.

When did you actually realise, art is your breath?

Art has always been part and parcel of my being. Both of my elder brothers and I have inherited this supreme talent of drawing from our father. However we lost our father at a very young age, and all of us went on to pursue a career in science and engineering. Also, people were sceptical about choosing art as a career in those days.

From my childhood I was crazy about drawing, literally, my childhood ambition was to pursue Fine Arts from my schooling. However, a couple of years back my career as an artist began when my childhood friend Susmitha, one of the partners of the restaurant ‘Aroi’ in Bangalore, gave me an opportunity to do a 14ft X 12ft Charcoal Mural painting for the restaurant’s reception wall.

‘It was a much-awaited Godsend break that opened a series of opportunities for me as an artist.’ From then on, I was commissioned to paint across India at various restaurants, IT companies, shopping malls, on the Altar wall in a Church, at the lobby of a convention centre, residences, portraits in oil, in the foyer of an automation demo centre etc.
I could also paint for an illustrated book for the pilgrims of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Majority of my paintings are murals (A piece of artwork painted directly on a wall) of 10ft and above; four of which are bigger than 22ft.

My career and size of canvas were getting bigger from the restaurant art experience.

What kind of painting you enjoy working on and how do you conceive new ideas?

I have mostly worked with realistic styles, many of my paintings are of landscapes. As a child, I was always mesmerized by the beauty of nature. Even though I was born in Pune, my childhood memories start from my home in Konni, a small town in South Kerala. The scenic view of natural charm from my house still enthrals me and has inspired many of my paintings.

From my experience with art, I would say working on commissioned painting projects is a totally different experience. Each project has a distinct setting and requirements. Each time the artist needs to make sure that the painting contributes to the overall ambience of that space. It is exciting and at the same time extremely challenging as there can be too many factors to consider. One needs to conceive the design and choose the medium of painting accordingly. There can be a deadline to meet too.

‘There are various points to consider before we start a project. I used to first visit the site, gather client requirements and meet the architect for further clarity on the concept and theme. And in case of murals, I would make a detailed study of nature of the wall to be painted and its relationship with its surroundings, texture of the wall, its size, its distance from the viewpoint, its elevation from floor level, view of that wall from all possible angles and even natural or other sources of lights falling on it.’

After gathering all the info required, a design is conceived considering all the above-mentioned factors with the sole intention of connecting with their audience to the main subject of that painting in the best way possible.

Your experience of painting at Altar wall of St.George Church?

It was a blessing and honour to have been chosen to paint on the Altar wall of St. George church at Chakkarapparambu, Kochi, Kerala in 2017. It was one of the projects that we worked day and night to ensure we don’t cross the deadline. The painting which is 35ft tall and 27.5ft wide is considered to be Asia’s single largest Altar mural in a church. Painted in hues of Yellow, portraying heavenliness and serenity, it stays humble in that ambience. All thanks to the architect, the Church priest and members of the parish committee for keeping faith in me. The work was spread across two and a half months. I was able to complete it along with my friend and co-artist V T Sujith.

To work on an Altar mural of such height and width required a lot of imagination, scheduling, skill and tons of patience. This was my first work in a church. Audiences here are the worshippers and my responsibility this time was bigger. Even though I was given a huge wall to paint on, my intention was not to gain all the attention by making it too loud but to keep it subtle and minimal. I realised that the role of my painting here is to lead devotees’ attention towards the crucifix of Jesus mounted in the centre of the painting.

This project is still close to my heart and a realisation that every moment spent on the work was rewarding.

Your dream stages?

Being an art explorer and an avid learner myself, one of my dreams is to travel around the world, see different architecture and their artistry and do lots and lots of plein air paintings (outdoor paintings). There’s so much to explore in India itself!

As an artist I hope to do more creative works, take up more challenging projects and push myself to the extremities. The crafty kid in me, however, wish to make a fully ‘Handmade Home’; right from its walls to shelves, its tiles, bird feeder, fish pond to even coffee mugs all made by myself.

For spreading the joy of painting, I volunteer by conducting various workshops on painting, craft and skills like jewellery making for the less fortunate people. I also associate with non-profit organizations for painting public library walls and walls of special schools and make the space more meaningful. Painting for government schools is also in pipeline. My daughter also accompanies me in such social activities.

‘Art is like music it holds healing properties. Art has proven to induce mental clarity and focus on positive life experiences.’

I have always envisioned filling up all hospital walls in this world, especially Children’s wards, with beautiful paintings. Transforming their static hospital walls into the world of Bambi and illustrations like in their fantasy storybooks will help kids feel better about being in the hospital who are otherwise ‘bouncing balls’!

As a mother who had been in similar situations, I understand the difficulty to engage children when they are hospitalized and have restricted movements and communication. Art help to stimulate their imagination largely. The glowing stars drawn on the ceiling will give them hope to be as bright and free as those brilliant stars!

However, to get this into a bigger way; we require good support from sponsors and many inspired artists who like to volunteer.

What’s that tip you have for those who wanted to follow their passion?

Drawing from my own life experiences, I would suggest we all acknowledge and nourish what we are blessed with. We cannot set aside our passion for a lifetime. Put your heart, mind and soul into your passion and follow it rigorously, no matter what age or occupation you are in that moment!

Those who are passionate about art, start seeing things around you all over again with fresh eyes! Keep drawing without examining whether or not it becomes a work of art. Artist Andrew Wyeth famously said, “Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing – then a work of art may happen.”

I believe the best way to develop art skills is by building a habit of sketching every day. It should become like an everyday prayer. Have two sketchbooks; one for daily sketching practice and use another one as a testing ground for your creative ideas.

‘Visit galleries and museums, it will unfold different art forms. Analyse why you like or dislike an artwork. Get connected with other artists. You may also join art communities where they exchange their experience and knowledge. Having friends in the art-world can be a great influence in your work and your growth as an artist. Accept constructive criticism. Consider it as a good learning tool. It will help you identify your strengths and area of improvement.’

So, go ahead, just get started! Sketch and draw anything you see. Only when you start, you’ll find how one idea leads to another.

Paulo Coelho’s quote has always been an inspiration and has shaped my life,” When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Follow this bit of advice from him passionately, Each thing has to transform itself into something better and to acquire a new Personal art you need to put your heart, soul and mind! And then see yourself on how you transcend to new heights.

Today, I can proudly say, after many career changes. My dreams have turned into reality. The happiness you get following your passion is tremendous. Nobody can see it, but YOU..!

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