I was on a quick trip to Udaipur on an interesting assignment which I will talk about in another article While in Udaipur, as is my want, I walked about in the city early mornings, to catch people getting ready for the day or capture them doing what they do the best. Rajasthan is a prominent destination in the itinerary of most visitors to India, and Udaipur the preferred destination for almost all of those who visit Rajasthan.
The alleys around the lake Pichola are full of life. The interplay between the residents and the visitors is very interesting, with the residents always greeting even strangers with an ‘intriguing’ Hello! The Lake Pichola witnesses a buzz of activity, from children diving and bathing to the ladies of the locality washing clothes early in the day. The flock of pigeons frolicking and whirring in circles, celebrating the advent of a new day, when you see many a visitor with a camera in hand capturing these special moments.
Every lane leading to lake Pichola will offer something new if you walk through. I was on one such walking expedition. I crossed one of the pedestrian bridges across Pichola and walked through an alley, that I had never been through before, towards one of the ghats that seemed to be calm and quiet.
As I took a turn right and approached the ghat, just behind a large peepal tree that is worshipped (orange threads tied around), I was delighted to see an elderly gentleman painting a canvas. I sought his permission and sat on the steps behind him observing his working. He was looking at a visual frame that spanned across the lake – with a pillared dome on one side, a bridge going across and ending into a gate on the other side. His army of brushes quickly changed places in his hands, as he was capturing on canvas, with flurry of subtle strokes, a variety of hues he was seeing in the visual frame. The layers of colors emerged one over the other on the canvas, slowly revealing his observation and translation of the palette into combination of colors that truly reflects his visual frame. Stroke by stroke, hue by hue he was filling the canvas. As he was doing the work, he was nodding and making various sounds, that was reflecting his internal struggle as well as delight. It was fascinating to observe him work. Surely for me, a great lesson in the art of painting.
After a while, he broke his silence and spoke, “it is a frustrating experience capturing the vast hues of nature. This size canvas takes at least two sittings, not an easy one for my 80 year-old body. That is why I usually paint small sized canvases.”
I got to know that he exhibits in London couple of times a year, each featuring the impressions of his travel. He came to India last year for the first time and fell in love. He has been here for the last three months and is heading back this weekend with a few canvases ready. His itinerary, for the next few weeks, include Morocco and Switzerland before he exhibits in the coming May. He does three or four exhibitions every year, and the earnings from the sale has paid off for his explorations of the world, in the last eighty years. It has been an exciting journey.
“I know only one thing, to paint, since my childhood. People told me to go to university, but, I found this is my calling. This is my university. Only thing I ever did was paint, whether inside the class or outside. I do what I love. Very few people are lucky to be doing that. It has helped me to discover myself and the world.” There is a great learning in what he said.
I captured him working, for my article and shared with him that I am going to write about this experience. The gentleman is known in the art-world by the name Ken Howard, and is a distinguished member of Royal Academy. I took leave of him with quite a few lessons to follow in my own life.
True to his sharing and my belief too, I realized how important it is “to do what I love, and I love whatever I do”.