The Portrait Artist

One evening, walking on Church Street, Bangalore, I saw a crowd gathering ahead. There was a lot of excitement, with many pulling out their phones to photograph something. Intrigued, I stepped closer.

There, in the middle of the crowd, sat a bespectacled man. He had a pencil in one hand and a clipboard in the other.  Beside him was a placard that read, “Portraits Making Within 10 minutes”. Some of his earlier works were scattered around, along with stationery and a stack of newspapers.

Sitting in front of him was a young woman. She was utterly still, staring at the man. He looked at the woman and then scribbled something on the board.

A man sketching a young woman. Shot in Bangalore, Karnataka, India.
The Portrait Artist

He was sketching her portrait, his hands outlining her face on the paper. He used charcoal pencils, wildly tracing her features.

I watched as he created the caricature, each stroke executed with a passionate intensity. He meticulously went about the sketch, fluidly capturing the details. Done in a relaxed, gestural style, he poured his heart onto the paper.

Laksham, as I learnt he was called, comes to Church street every weekend to sketch passers-by. Originally from Andhra Pradesh, he relocated to Bangalore in search of work. He charges a nominal Rs 200 per piece, which he takes 10 minutes to create. After he is done, he wraps his work in a newspaper and gives it to his customer.

Never having seen a street artist before, took out my camera and began photographing him. Unruffled, he continued drawing. I circled him, capturing the spectacle from all angles.

After doing this for several minutes, I knew I must get my portrait done. So, after he finished with the last customer, I paid his fees and sat opposite him. He regarded me with a piercing gaze before turning to his paper to begin the illustration.

Ishan Shanavas

His eyes would frequently flit from the paper to me while his hands gestured wildly across the clipboard. Now and then, he’d ask me to re-position my head or turn a certain way.

It was interesting to model for him. I had to stay in the same position while he worked. It was tempting to look over and see how the picture was coming about. I had to restrain myself consciously.

Eventually, curiosity got the better of me, and I leaned over to look at the caricature. There I saw my likeness, a picture of a young adult with a mop of hair on his head. His free strokes accurately depicted my curly hairstyle, with loose curls here and there. His skill was impressive.

As a budding artist, I have not seen many people with that level of dexterity. Glad to have come across him.

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

2 thoughts on “The Portrait Artist

  1. Street artists are wonderful to watch, and were so common in fetes just a few decades back. They are precious now, mainly because they learn through iteration, and those opportunities are rare. I hope he felt flattered too, by the attentions of a photographer! And that is a fair likeness, and I would frame that up! Lovely read!

    Like

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