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Portrait of a painter

Apart from honing her painting skills, Dr.Shobhana has now taken to imparting knowledge of painting to others by conducting classes on Tanjore, oil, glass and tile painting.


"To paint things as they are requires a minute attention, and employs the memory rather than the fancy." -- Dr.Samuel Johnson (Milton: Lives of the Poets)

"The mind of the painter should be like a mirror which always takes the colour of the thing that it reflects, and which is filled by as many images as there are things placed before it." -- Leonardo da Vinci

PAINTING FOR some is a hobby, for some it is a source of income.

For a few, it is purely a pleasure seeking creativity.

Like in the case of Dr.Shobana Kumar, who takes you by surprise revealing her primary job — an anaesthetist. If you see her works of art you will not believe that she is a medical practitioner — or rather that she was one — since she has given it up for the sake of painting.

It is generally thought that a keen observer can become a good painter.

That the painter should possess an enormous memory to bring incidents or people alive on the canvas.

The ability to draw the minute details reflects the brilliance of a painter.

And Dr.Shobana Kumar epitomises such qualities.

Her stint as practicing anaesthetist brought her in contact with people from various cultures and societies. And despite her hectic schedule she never missed an opportunity to put on paper in flowing lines all those innumerable interactions, emotions of her patients and visitors.

"It helped me in understanding the people better," she says revealing how since her medical college days her anatomy illustrations used to be much appreciated by her professors. "From my childhood I had a penchant for sketching. It is something inborn,'' she feels.

Though endowed with this artistic skill, she had to pursue medicine as a career since she belonged to a family of doctors. But she didn't let her first love die.

It remained deep within her and she started viewing paintings seriously only 15 years ago. With a fascination for Tanjore paintings, she first picked up the art and introduced innovations.

"It is a separate school of art and highly flexible. It can adopt any figure other than Krishna and Radha and so I experimented expanding the scope," she says.

From Tanjore paintings, Dr.Shobhana moved on to Mysore paintings with an amazing dexterity and ease. She got hooked on to the more time consuming Mysore style, which was distinctly different from Tanjore paintings right from selection of the gold foil to the sticking procedure. Soon she found her heart and mind in oil paintings.

"A proper oil painting takes atleast a month to complete. Every detail on the painting has to be developed layer by layer. Each coat will take three or four days to dry," she shares.

In between, she also tried her hand at glass and tile paintings. "Tile painting is relatively new and the concept of glass painting is understood well only when light is allowed to pass effectively through the medium," she feels.

Even though she gave up her profession, Dr.Shobhana continued with her hospital visits merely to oblige patients who requested for a painting. Her husband, Dr.Kumar Venkatesan intervenes: "She has given some of her paintings to my patients. They were so impressed that requests poured in to depict Mecca, Medina and the holy Arabic scriptures using Tanjore style.

She willingly obliged doing a creditable job." Another friend asked her to paint the `Hamsa Damayanthi' painting of the great Raja Ravi Varma in Tanjore style. She has used the same style even for a painting of Jesus Christ and each work has her stamp of quality.

Her all time favourite work, however, remains in oil paint -- that of schoolgirl with her books open on her lap.

"I saw the painting in a magazine and just reproduced it. It came out very well," she gushes.

Apart from steadfastly honing her painting skills, Dr.Shobhana has now taken to imparting knowledge of painting to others by conducting classes on Tanjore, oil, glass and tile painting. In her opinion, an interested student takes a fortnight to learn Tanjore, glass and tile paintings while oil paintings classes take another week extra.

With more than 100 Tanjore paintings in her kitty, Dr. Shobhana is planning to create a website.

Later, she also plans to run an art gallery in her house. Enter her house now and it just shows off her mark of authority in paintings.

The door panels of the puja room are done with Tanjore paintings.

A miniature Tanjore painting on marble stone is another highlight.

With her vast portfolio, Dr.Shobana Kumar's dream is to be remembered as a versatile painter and not just an oil or Tanjore paintings artist.

T.SARAVANAN

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