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PORTRAIT of a painter

N. Nagarajan's exquisite work of art caught the attention of many, writes T. SARAVANAN



IT'S SPECIAL: Lip stick wonder.

THE STROKES of the painting looked quite different. Neither a brush nor any artificial tool for that matter appeared to have been used. Yet, the work of art attracted everyone. A closer look revealed an interesting feature -- that the painting was done with lips.

As and when an idea flashes, this unusual painter apparently colours his lips and then smacks it on the paper. And to everyone's surprise, a beautiful portrait emerges. It has to be seen to be believed.

For young N. Nagarajan, a second year student at the College of Fine Arts in Chennai, painting is something inseparable from his life.

"Right from my formative years I have been scribbling literally on every available medium at home. It baffled me a lot when my parents, who were thrilled to see me drawing sceneries and other portraits at a tender age, opposed my decision to opt for a career in painting," he recollects.

Belonging to a family of volleyballers — his father, A. Navamani, was a State volleyball player and his elder brother, N. Sundar, represented Madurai Kamaraj University - it was but natural for his family members perhaps to expect volley ball strikes - and not painting strokes -- from Nagarajan.

Pepped by painting

He did somewhat oblige his father's request and took to basketball for sometime. But a jaundice attack, when he was in Class X at St. Mary's Higher Secondary School, returned him to his first love. He revived his interest in painting, as he had no other work to do other than to sit at home and watch television during his recuperating days.

Till now, he fondly remembers his drawing master at school, P. Manickam, who was solely responsible for kindling the spirit for fine arts in him.

"Though he took classes only during the specified hours and nothing extra, I drew my inspiration from the brilliant artwork of Manickam. Especially, the one he did when Mother Teresa expired," reminisces Nagarajan.


But it was Gabriel, another teacher, who taught him the nuances of drawing. The idea to script `Tirukkural' couplets on matchsticks came from Dominic Bernadshaw, one of his drawing masters at school.

"I often moved with Dominic and had frank discussions sharing my feelings. He only impressed upon me to take up a career in art. He gave me useful tips for the entrance examination to the College of Fine Arts," he says.

It was Dominic, who instilled confidence in Nagarajan, and asked him to go for some innovative art designs, which would earn him laurels.

Kurals on matchsticks

Working on his advice, Nagarajan started the project of writing `Tirukkural' couplets on matchsticks. It took him 20 days before he accomplished his mission.

"I worked 10 to 12 hours a day to complete it. Since it was my first experience, I found it hard at the start. But as time progressed I found it easy. By the end of it all, I used 299 matchsticks to write 1330 `Tirukkural' coplets, each matchstick containing four `kurals'," he says.

Nagarajan has also done carvings on pencil lead. "Generally, people carve pictures on chalk pieces. But then it is not that tough because it is easy to scrub the material. But carving on pencil lead is quite challenging. If it is small figures like animals it takes three hours. If it is a personality, then it might take weeks. I got this idea when one of my friends' sisters challenged me if I could carve a figure on the pencil lead. I took it up and carved a figure of Lord Vinayaga and presented it to her. The first success propelled me to attempt with other figures and now I have an array of carvings including, horse, mother and a child, figures of the President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, and Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa," Nagarajan shares.

The latest of his innovative art designs is painting with lips. "I do not know from where the idea came. But I always wanted to meet President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in person and kiss him. It has been my ambition and childhood dream. But then, I realised that it was not that easy to meet the President and kiss him. Hence, I wanted to do it at least on paper. That propelled me to draw the portrait of the President with my lips," he reveals his secret.

Nagarajan's aim is to draw a portrait of Lord Jesus Christ using verses from the New Testament. And on completion, he proposes to send it to the Guinness Book of World Records. The exquisite carvings on pencil lead and his paintings with lips are a testimony to the commitment and hard work of this young painter.

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