I have been an art patron always -- the ability to bring inanimate objects to life on a canvas through drawing and colours is a gift worth envying. For as long as Suvigya Sharma can remember, he has been drawing, painting and creating things. His area of expertise is miniature paintings, which is one of the oldest art forms in the world. Indian kings and emperors were the earliest supporters of this art, but somewhere along the way the difficulty in following the art form saw its decline. But in case of Suvigya’s family, miniature paintings have been a way of life for more three generations – Suvigya being the third.
This 31-year old artist has done paintings for the biggest families in the country and counts the Rajasthan royal family, Bajajs, Birlas, Ambanis, Piramals and Modis among others as his clientele. We met the young artist at an exhibition of Whitenife products and decided to delve deeper into his entrepreneurial journey.
The budding artist
Since the age of 4, Suvigya would observe his father at work and he says most of his learning has been through observation. “I never undertook any formal training in art or painting. Whatever I have learnt has been through observation only. I have never learnt anything professionally its inborn. I also didn’t realize when it became a profession, it was very natural I guess,” he says. At the age of 7, Suvigya made his first pencil portrait. At 12 years of age, Suvigya gifted his mom her portrait for her birthday. He was also gifting portraits to his friends for their birthdays. And by 15 years, Suvigya had started taking drawing and painting classes for children in Jaipur -- and the young teenager tutored about 30 students in a batch in drawing and painting. “The appreciation and demand was so good that I continued taking those classes for 7 years,” says Suvigya.
However just like others his age, Suvigya went to college and even studied Foreign Trade Management with an aim to take up a related job after he finished studies. But that was never to be. “There were many small things that constantly motivated me to continue with art. While in college, the Malaysian University had floated a tender to make the Chancellor’s chair. This was a big ceremony, because the chair is changed once in every 20 years. I won the tender and made a chair which has gold, silver, crystal, marble and wood work in it. Everybody loved it. If you goto the University, you will still find it there,” says Suvigya proudly.
He admits that when he looks back at the whole thing today, he is amazed at how things have moved. “We just took whatever came our way and went with the flow. Sometimes we laugh and say have we done all this ourselves?” he admits.
The mature artist
Suvigya has painted almost all the top industrialist families in the country, including Bajaj, Ambani, Mittal and Piramal among others. He cannot name some clients because of confidentiality reasons, but counts the who’s who of this country as his customers. “Most work comes by word-of-mouth. People like what they see and we get connected,” he says. If it is not word-of-mouth, then in some cases it has also been pure persuasion by him that has resulted in conversion. Once Suvigya was seeking an appointment to meet a well-known industrialist family, but as they were busy and for the appointment to fructify it took almost 2 years. But that was the only tough part. Since the last 10 years, Suvigya has done some work or the other for this family after that first meeting. “It started with a painting of their guru, since then I have made family portraits, temples, fresco paintaings – something or the other for them,” he says.
In Jaipur today almost all the work that is being done, is either directly by local artists associated with Suvigya or who work with him. If there is any restoration or architectural work undertaken by Suvigya, he works with a team of about 100 artisans -- all from in and around Jaipur who assist him. “Every work we undertake is done in stages -- different artisans are equipped with different skills. Some are good at gold embossing, some can do fresco work and so on. Once I have done the main part, other artisans help filling in the rest,” he says.
Over the three generations that Suvigya and his family have been painting, they have touched the lives of over 1,000 artists, and provided them with employment and work. At present Suvigya’s wife Charu runs an NGO, which periodically conducts art camps in nearby villages of Jaipur and helps identify young girls and women from these areas who are interested in art. “These villagers are happy working in their houses and do not want to travel to town. By working with them we are also assured of a proper workforce and they are assured of work from us throughout the year,” explains Charu.
While Suvigya is well-known for his work among the industrialists, he has started working with movie stars to fulfill their requests. This move to partner with movie stars was something Suvigya’s father had stayed away from. But the young artist has already made special diwali products for Priyanka Chopra and is open to ideas of more collaboration in the future. “I am currently going with the flow. All I have in mind is to be able to be associated with everything to do with art. Sometime back a fashion designer wanted to incorporate my gold fresco work in her garments, so we are exploring how it can be done. I am open to all forms of art,” says the artist.
The impending Diwali season is busy time for Suvigya, but in the pipeline is work for Singapore museum, temples in Trichy and couple of Jain temples in Delhi. The one connecting link between everything that he does is the Kishangad style of miniature painting – which is the more intricate style and requires lot of patience and detail to attention. “I am passionate about miniature art and want to do everything in my capability to keep it alive and make it grow. Maybe after some years I would like to open and art school and teach more people about this art form,” says the artist.
This passion to grow the footprint of miniature art by spreading it as far and wide as possible, Suvigya is building a market for an art form which perhaps not many of us are aware of. More power to Suvigya! And we wish him luck in his mission of taking miniature art to the masses.