Small format, large vision: how this art exhibition raises funds for wildlife

The collective, called Artists for Wildlife and Nature, is back with a creative form and theme for its latest exhibition: small-format artworks, on sale as part of a drive to increase awareness and conservation of wildlife.

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Artists for Wildlife and Nature (AWN), formed in 2017, is a collective whose mission is to raise awareness about wildlife, environmental preservation, and artistic skills in portrayal of nature. One of AWN’s exhibitions at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath last year was in line with the celebration of 2018 as ‘Year of the Bird.’

Their earlier art show this year was held at Venkatappa Gallery in Bengaluru; the third exhibition is being held at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. It features dozens of paintings, linocuts, drawings and mixed-media works, priced from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.

Featured artists include Paresh Vishwanath Churi, Jayavanth Jadhav, Smitha Kashi, Abhijna Desai, Prasanna Kumar, Prasad Natarajan (AWN founder), Umesh Prasad, and Sreelatha P. They showcase not just the usual ‘big game,’ but animals and birds some of whom are endangered.

Artists play an important role in raising awareness about social and environmental issues, but it is citizens that need to take initiative also to preserve our precious nature reserves, according to Prasad Natarajan and the AWN members.

“We received entries from fifteen artists, and ten of their profiles were found matching for the miniature format. From the 90 artworks submitted, 73 were selected,” Prasad said, in a chat with YourStory.

In their previous shows, AWN received feedback from many nature and art lovers that wildlife art was perceived as unaffordable for the common citizen. “Hence last year, I sat back and drafted a plan on how to make art affordable. Since art pricing all over the world is decided on the size of the artwork, I decided to go the small format way,” he explains.

Participating artists were therefore given three sizes to work on: 4x4, 5x7 and 8x8 inches. “The creative process remains the same, the only major challenge is scaling down the size. This requires a certain amount of preparation, research, and appropriate choice of subjects,” Prasad adds. Two of the AWN artists are also able to work on almost all available mediums.

The art collective has two more shows coming up during the year, one on birds in July and the second on all species in October. “In February, we had a nature camp in Thekkady Tiger Reserve for a few artists. We hope to have a couple more during the rest of the year. Every month we have bird watching and field sketching sessions that are free and open to the public,” Prasad says.

The green vine snake and Munnar bush frog are some of the animals that have attracted artist Abhijna Desai as subjects for her art work. “I chose some of my subjects based on how special they were to me in my personal life, and some that needed to be represented as an important species that requires conservation,” she explains.

She has used unlikely subjects because she would like people to see the beauty in these animals and not just the obvious choice, which are birds, tigers and leopards. “Snakes, butterflies, frogs and bats are worth just as much attention as the big cats,” Abhijna jokes.

Success for her means reaching out to people and teaching them something they don't already know. “I work on scorpions, bats and frogs which are quite stigmatised and not many people know about them. I also feel that success is when children can understand my work. They should be able to appreciate nature and feel motivated to do something towards conserving these beautiful species,” Abhijna explains.

She calls for more encouragement for the arts as a career. “When children are asked what their favourite subject is, they are expected to say maths or science. Arts are always considered to be extra-curricular activities. Arts of any form are never encouraged as a possible means of livelihood. If that changes, a lot of people will choose art wholeheartedly and pursue it without any inhibitions,” Abhijna emphasises.

Artist Smitha Kashi chooses her subjects as part of a series of observing and sketching them in the field and photographing them. “I paint most of them back in my studio, referring to my own images often.  Usually my subjects are characters to me, they are personalities I connected to, or some times, a moment that is dear to me. I love to capture their expressions and that subtle communication,” she explains.

Through her art, she wants to encourage people to see the captivating beauty and diversity of our natural world. “It is an effort to help them appreciate and learn more about lesser-known species. I firmly believe that we protect what we like and we like what we know well,” Smitha says.

“Success to me is when my artwork captures the attention of a viewer, interests them about nature, and in turn helps conservation. For example, they may tell me that they didn't know such a bird existed, or that it is wonderful to know about some unique behaviour,” she adds.

She observes that wildlife art in India is getting better. “We all have a tough path to walk, but if one is truly passionate this becomes an enjoyable journey. Patience, perseverance and passion are the key ingredients to crack this code and succeed in this field,” Smitha signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and do your bit (and more) for nature?

Jayavanth Jadhav

Prasad Natarajan

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