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Sketches in a jiffy

Octogenarian S.R. Vales needs just a minute to observe faces on television before sketching them

Pic. by T. A. Hafeez

FOR THOSE who associate old age with debility and failing senses, 80-year-old S.R. Vales is an aberration. He wakes up at 4 a.m., slogs for 10 hours a day and has a memory as sharp as an elephant.

"It is my passion for painting and sketching that keeps me fit and going even at this age," says this former senior commercial artist of Associated Printers, who learnt the nuances of the art when he was 19.

"I started by sketching anything and anyone who caught my fancy. It was just a hobby then. I would often stop people passing by and request them to pose for me," says Vales with a smile. "Gradually I began to think of pursuing it as a profession."

However, faced with stiff opposition from parents, as his father wanted him to become an accountant, Vales decided to chart his own course. He borrowed Rs.100 from a friend and came to Madras from his hometown in Andhra Pradesh. "The idea was to try and join the School of Arts and Crafts in Egmore."

As luck would have it, Vales not only secured a seat but also won a token amount as scholarship. However, owing to the lack of monetary assistance from his family, he was forced to discontinue his studies and apply for a job at the Associated Printers as a commercial artist.

His cherished collection includes paintings depicting Mughal lifestyles, western landscapes, Kandy dances from Ceylon and the Buddha in meditation, besides portraits of newsmakers.

Hoping to compile his works into a book and publish them, Vales now sketches television personalities.

Often getting barely a minute to observe the person, he starts sketching from memory an almost-photo like reproduction of the face. Using a charcoal pencil, his hand draws deft strokes across the canvas to capture his chosen subject.

From talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey to forest brigand Veerappan, from pop star Michael Jackson to United Nation Secretary General Kofi Annan, Vales has sketched over 1,000 personalities.

"I want the public to recognise the person portrayed without being told who it is.

That to me is the ultimate compliment," he says. The artist can be contacted at ph: 24996686.

SANGEETH KURIAN

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