Say it with dots: Meet Kerala artist Syam whose Instagram art has won fans

Once, noticing the many portraits that Syam drew of actor Tovino Thomas, the latter shared his post with an encouraging message.
Say it with dots: Meet Kerala artist Syam whose Instagram art has won fans
Say it with dots: Meet Kerala artist Syam whose Instagram art has won fans
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Syam does not think a lot before making a new sketch. He also does not think there’s anything much in what he does, but he has dropped a curious little description on his Instagram profile – Dot Artist. That and the art itself below it, make you special, Syam S Sajeev, we say.

“But there are quite a few international artists specialised in it,” he says, almost defensively. Yes, possibly, and he would know that. He is the artist. But how many are there in Kerala, and how many laypersons would know this – that, he can’t say. Finally accepting the niche he has carved for himself, Syam ventures to share that even though he has seen many do the dot art – it’s officially called stippling art, dot is his coinage – there were no works using multiple colours.

The art work involves drawing an image completely with dots, no connecting lines, no easy way out. And Syam – ironically a corporate man working in Inforpark, Kochi – uses no technology, nothing digital. It is all good old pen on paper.

“I first learnt about it watching the work of international artists on Instagram. But all that I have seen have been done using a single colour. I thought I should make it colourful,” he says. For a while, he too sketched only in black or blue – there’s a slightly chubby version of Fahadh Faasil, a thinner and possibly season 4 version of Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones, an adorable Thilakan from Ustad Hotel, and many, many Tovinos.

He then switched to colours and the first of these is a picture of actor Parvathy, in shades of red and yellow, the way she looked in Charlie. Further up, Trisha walks by, in her now-popular 96 yellow kurta next to Vijay Sethupathi in a sketch of which Syam also made a video. As her smile spreads and his hands gesture, you hear Govind Vasantha’s beautiful music in the background.

It is not just celebrities whom he sketches, Syam dots away his friends and sometimes gets commissioned work too. 

“It was all free at first, but I was just not getting enough time. I have got the day job too, so I began taking paid work," he says.

As the pictures proceed in time, you see Syam evolve – the outlines becoming clearer, the backgrounds changing to tell a story – Katrina Kaif’s portrait on a notebook is held against the road under the evening sun, with calligraphed letters saying ‘Seize The Day’. The blue sea forms the backdrop for Biju Menon’s and Asif Ali’s conversation on love from Anuraga Karikkin Vellam. Syam mumbles vaguely that one of the provocations to sketch was lost love. But it is not meant to be probed more, so we go back to his creative experiments. Such as line drawing.

“That’s something I began after dot art, it is relatively simpler, as you can see,” he says. You can guess without seeing. Imagine drawing thousands of dots in the shape and features of someone, lines have to be simpler. And he does it all with pen – the good old sketch pens we all doodle with as children and forget about later, and a more technical MicroPen that Syam says architects use. Most of these are on A4 sheets. But Syam is thinking of making a bigger portrait for his favourite actor Tovino.

“I used to regularly draw his pictures and tag him. Once he noticed the work and shared all my work, with a kind post. His post got me some attention, that was nice,” admits this Aluva man.

(embed tovino)

He hasn’t yet t


Dotted paintings by @syamssajeev ! Good work man !!!

A post shared by Tovino Thomas (@tovinothomas) on

hought of making art a full time profession. He is not a trained artist, it is Engineering that he studied, like most college-goers in Kerala in the last two decades. But Engineering gives you time to find your creative spaces. Quite a few find their real calling, sitting in a Mechanical Engineering class and not listening to the Thermodynamics lecture. Syam found he could draw, and draw well. Perhaps, if this could give him enough work and money, he could join that rare club of people who actually love their jobs.

Syam S Sajeev

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