On the occasion of the Republic Day of India, spare some thought (and lots of action) for the rights of nature all around us as well. The group Artists for Wildlife and Nature shows how.
PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 290 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Artists for Wildlife and Nature (AWN) was formed in 2017 as a platform to raise awareness about wildlife, environmental preservation, and artistic skills in portrayal of nature. The message of ‘conservation through art’ is conveyed through workshops, competitions, awards, and exhibitions.
One of AWN’s exhibitions at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath last year was in line with the celebration of 2018 as ‘Year of the Bird.’ This year’s art show drew 140 artworks submitted by 48 artists, of which 23 were selected for the exhibition at Venkatappa Gallery in Bengaluru.
The juror for the art competition this year was leading US wildlife artist Jan Martin McGuire, who is known for combining fine art with scientific accuracy in her paintings. Winners of the competition received cash prizes and gift vouchers amounting to Rs 45,000.
In this photo essay, we showcase some of the paintings, sketches, and installations on display, along with artists and curator insights. Ten percent of the sales proceeds from the show are intended to be given to the Rocha India trust for research on conservation.
In a chat with YourStory, AWN founder Prasad Natarajan, a former network engineer, said 90 percent of the artists were new in this year’s competition as compared to the previous edition. There were also 13 artists below the age of 18.
“India is blessed with plentiful biodiversity, but we must all work hard to preserve it. Conservation should focus on all species, and not just a few,” he said. “Do a lot of fieldwork, and study the species in their real life habitat,” Prasad advises, as tips for aspiring nature artists.
Awards were given in a range of categories: Artist of the Year (Sreelatha P; engineer and freelance artist), Sculpture (Umesh Prasad; former advertising professional), Avian (Prerna Gupta; natural history artist), Mammal (Nidhi Manjunath; entrepreneur and self-taught artist), Landscape (Pratima Kumar, artist from Ranchi), Student artist (Neha Sathish, DPS Bangalore North), and Open category (Sanskruti Nakul Naik; artist from Goa).
“Art helps cope with anxiety and the stress of daily life, and gives purpose in what can, too often, feel like a nihilistic world,” says artist Prerna Gupta, who has a background in literature and journalism, and now works at the media relations office of IIT Kanpur.
“Time and again, I’ve found peace and solace in nature, like so many writers and artists who came before me. Nature has the power to heal and a simple walk in nature can help us feel rejuvenated. The more I have observed of the natural world, the more I have wondered at the beauty of it,” she adds.
Prerna has words of advice for aspiring artists as well. “Don’t look for a shortcut. Don’t be in a hurry to reach your goals. Put in lots of hard work and practice daily, even if it is for a few minutes. Creativity is like a muscle and you must flex it regularly,” she explains.
“Through my artworks, I wish to convey the message to protect and preserve mother nature. Nature is the reason for our existence. We breathe, we live, because of her,” says Goa-based art teacher Arti Phadte.
“Develop your own unique art style or technique that becomes your identity as an artist,” she offers as artist tips. “Never ignore any opportunities that come to you. If no opportunity appears, it's your duty to create one for yourself as well as your co-artists. Keep working, keep exploring, keep giving, keep learning,” Arti urges.
VS Ashalata comes from a family of artists and has tried a range of forms like glass painting, Thai art, and Tanjore painting. Her exhibited work features the sunflower, and draws inspiration from heavenly bodies as well.
“I feel more accomplished when I can address social and environmental issues through my art. My sincere appeal to all the upcoming artists is to spread awareness about conservation of nature as it has become the need of the hour. Nature’s peace will flow into our lives,” she advises.
Jayavanth Jadhav, an 18-year old artist from Koppa in Chikkamagaluru district, is studying at LISAA school of Design. He uses his weekends to travel and explore wildlife habitats.
“Age is just a number and must never be a barrier. Sometimes people think that there is still time and they can do art later, but my suggestion is do it now, don’t wait,” he advises. He also cites Pablo Picasso: "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
Goa-based art instructor Sanskruti Naik says artists are blessed with natural skills, and should use them in turn to express the beauty hidden in nature. “Success comes only from an intense degree of dedication and devotion. Though initial attempts and strategies may not work, success will follow only from new zeal and different approaches,” she observes.
Pareejat Gogoi was a corporate HR professional, but then quit to do art and dance full-time. “Art gives you a sense of expression while also being meditative. Everyone relates to art at some point. India has rich wildlife but it needs conservation,” she explains.
BN Vidya has a master’s degree in agro-economics, and is now a full-time artist. “Art is meditation to me. Being a devoted nature lover, painting is like a prayer to nature,” she explains, urging everyone to practice at least one type of art as a source of inner satisfaction.
“To be a successful artist, passion and commitment are absolutely essential. It is a very difficult and long journey -- most of the times done alone, riddled with disappointments, failures and sometimes very little encouragement. Firm self-belief and perseverance play a crucial role in successfully overcoming obstacles,” she advises aspiring artists.
“A good support system, working under a good tutor, participating in workshops, and interacting with senior artists are some of the fundamentals required to become a good artist,” Vidya adds.
"You cannot satisfy everyone, so do what interests you. Keep working, no matter what. Everyone has his or her own struggle for living," Latha Kruthi advises artists. "Wildlife art helps understand the biodiversity of earth. Responsible citizens should cultivate plastic-free areas, save water bodies, and stop encroaching forest areas," adds Dr. Ranjita Rao, an artist and ayurvedic doctor.
"Art is a way to express love and passion for wildlife and to communicate the urgent need to respect and protect the natural habitat," says Nidhi Manjunath, restaurateur and self-taught artist. Alarmed at how deforestation and poaching are taking a toll on nature and driving many species to extinction, Nidhi founded the gift shop called Artists for Wildlife Conservation Karnataka (AWCK) to raise funds to preserve wildlife. A percentage of the proceeds go to grassroots NGOs and tribal communities to promote eco-friendly livelihoods.
Now, what have you done today to appreciate art and nature, and do your bit for both of them?
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