Kerala artist begins 100-day sketching challenge, inspires more to join

The idea was to make art an everyday habit and many who participated in Nandan's challenge have talked about how it reminded them of a talent they had forgotten.
Kerala artist begins 100-day sketching challenge, inspires more to join
Kerala artist begins 100-day sketching challenge, inspires more to join
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Vijayakumar had not drawn a picture in 30 years. He used to, as a young boy, and watching him, his little brother began drawing ,too. But then Vijayakumar got swept away into another life, leaving art behind, even as Nandan, his little brother, grew up to become an artist. What’s now brought him back to a forgotten talent is a post Nandan wrote on Facebook, on New Year’s Eve.

“Are you interested to sketch anything or draw a picture on New Year’s Day?” the post begins. When that gets your attention, Nandan goes on to say that he is taking up a challenge, to draw every day for 100 days. He then invites whoever is interested – artist, aspiring artist, those with a desire to draw, anyone at all – to take up the challenge with him. They can draw anything on any background using any medium. There are no conditions, no rules. Even the everyday rule can be flouted when people are pressed for time.

As soon as he made the post, there came volunteers, people with a desire to draw but haven’t been able to for a long, long time -- amateur artists, and professionals. “A problem with artists is that they can be a lazy bunch. I’d have my colours and brushes and canvas and palate all at an arm’s length and still not make an effort to paint a picture. The thought led to this challenge,” Nandan, a freelance artist hailing from Kodungalloor, says.

Artist Nandan

He has been a graphic designer, working in ad companies for years, an art director (Athishayangalude Venal), a poster designer, apart from the other freelancing roles he takes up. After designing for far too long, Nandan thought he should get back to painting again, and Facebook with its many challenges springing up on our timelines every other day, showed the way. “The basic idea was to make it a practice, to draw. Like any other form of art, drawing needs practice. I'm sure all those who are taking part in the challenge are going to find a difference after 100 days,” he says.

It did more than that, it brought back art to the lives of people like Vijayakumar. It helped discover new talents. “I have known this writer called Manoj Pattat for a while, he posts on socio political issues, makes relevant observations in his notes. But I never knew he could draw so well, until he took up this challenge and began making portraits with pencils. It surprised many!” Nandan says.

Then there was Musthafa Muhammad, another man who used to draw in his schooldays and then went away to a Gulf country, forgetting art. “He is not an expert, but he has the enthusiasm of a child when he draws. And he has never missed a day.” 

Nandan then talks of Sunitha, who works in the IT field, and finds time to draw after a hectic day of work.

“It is the interest that counts,” Nandan says. And the joy that’s come into their lives suddenly. There was an aim they woke up with every day, a thought of what they should draw today.

The idea to invite others came after a programme Nandan conducted at the time of the Kerala floods last year. “Everyone was doing something to contribute to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund. I didn’t have a lot of money so I decided to make portraits of people who could then pay me by contributing to the CMDRF. I would wait for their receipt and then draw them digital illustrations of their profiles, for a minimum price of Rs 1,500. In that way, I have been able to pool in close to Rs 1 lakh for the CMDRF,” Nandan says.

In those days, a lot of artists had connected with Nandan over Facebook. And when he had the thought of having a 100-day challenge – that came with the hashtag, 100dayssketching, and the same in Malayalam – Nandan decided to do it as a group challenge.

Nandan knew he had done something right when he began getting comments from those whose days have suddenly turned brighter, merrier and now had a new purpose. Prajesh Gopal, an NRI, told him how he had always wished to draw but had never got around to doing it because of his busy life and an innate laziness. However, this challenge has brought him back to art, and he hopes his little daughter will also be inspired to draw, watching him. Another participant Animesh Xavier wrote that when art becomes your job, you think about how it can be sold; this attitude was shaken with Nandan's challenge and it is so refreshing to wake up every day with the thought of drawing something new, and watching the work of others.

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