By Rubina Singh
If you have ever wanted to delve into the world of art but held yourself back because of a lack of artistic talent, think again!
“One does not necessarily have to be accomplished at sketching, painting or anything for that matter to be able to create and enjoy the pleasure that art can bring. Everybody is an artist,” says Shreya Suraj, a self-taught Indian artist based in Doha.
“Each one of us has the ability to relate to a different style of art that expresses what is within us. Just as all five fingers are not the same, all arts and artistic talents are not the same either. We just need an accessible platform to display our work and the right encouragement to support us in our journey to discovering our hidden artist.”
It is this belief that inspired Shreya to form an online group called ABCD-ANY BODY CAN DRAW, using Facebook as a gateway to connect and motivate anyone interested in art.
The community promotes the work of artists regardless of academic background in Fine Arts. “Through this group I have created a platform that enables people of all ages, anywhere in the world, to post their art work on my website and I personally respond to each post with words of praise and encouragement.” A quick visit to the group’s webpage demonstrates the impact sharing and caring can have in encouraging art.
“I started the group in October 2016 with the purpose of inspiring people to discover themselves, as I had been able to, through the medium of art, especially children, housewives, old people…anyone who has ever felt or been made to feel that they lack artistic talent,” she says reflecting on her own journey.
“Even though I was interested in art right from my childhood I limited myself to just doodling and drawing cartoons. Back in those days, where I grew up, encouragement towards fine arts wasn’t considered important and academics were always given more priority, so access to art coaching was also meager. I used to see the labels and stickers on my friend’s books and draw those cartoons with ordinary pens, colour with colour pencils and fill up my diary. My friends used to love my creations and they still remember it fondly.”
Even when Shreya introduces herself, vibrant metaphors and colours are woven into her imagery, providing an insight into how she thinks of everything in colour and graphics. “I come from the beautiful country India, which is famous for its rich heritage and diversity. My childhood was in the City of Joy, Calcutta, followed by a few years in Garden City, Bangalore, and then almost a decade in the coastal city of Chennai. This tenure in culturally rich places has paved my education as well as my interest in art. Now, I am a post-graduate in Mathematics and I have great passion for art.”
“My first professional training in art was at 18, when I learnt how to do Tanjore Paintings under the guidance of an extremely talented teacher. Tanjore painting involves many hours of hard work and involves working with semi-precious stones and a gold leaf. As this form of art requires considerable investment of time and money, I eventually had to discontinue due to paucity on both counts.”
“Thereafter, marriage and motherhood kept me busy and art took a back seat. I used to think that painting was the only form of art possible in this world and always waited for the perfect time, perfect theme and the perfect ambience to start my painting expedition, which was never possible. I managed to do some occasional art work just to keep in touch with my passion but nothing that was soul satisfying,” she says, continuing with her story.
“With the passage of time, I felt that art should be encouraged in everybody and I started researching diverse artistic techniques. My own yearning for artistic expression led me to learn Glass Paintings and Fabric Painting and some other forms along the way, which I now teach others.”
“Not long after, I realised, that like an ocean, art too is limitless! The more I explored, the more interested I became and the more variety in form and style I discovered. This revved up my interest further and sucked me deeper into the world of art.”
“I discovered lesser known forms of art like Chevron Painting, Salt painting, Bubble Painting, Coffee Painting……and Indian forms of art like Warli, Madhubani, Kalamkari art…. It was like a whole new universe had opened to me and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the feeling, and the freedom, which I had been able to experience and discover the artist in them. The realisation that everyone has a creative side and an element of artistic orientation was an eye opener for me. I believe it’s important not to limit yourself to the conventional concept of art as drawing and painting only or to shackle yourself to commonly known forms such as oil colours or water paints which may not necessarily be everybody’s cup of tea and I highly encourage people to explore other mediums and styles to find the one that inspires you.”
“My mission is to reach all kinds of people, all over the world and hence I chose to start a group in the virtual world. Everybody has a smartphone and clicking a photo has become very easy now. Uploading too has become easy with high speed internet and that makes it possible for people to connect with other likeminded people anywhere in the world.”
The group members are also allowed to post links to their personal art pages, so that a lot more people notice their art work and ‘like’ their page, which in turn boosts them further. Seeing pictures of their art pieces exhibited, inspires a deeper interest and encourages others to explore their passion.
Quiz competitions on various topics related to art are conducted every month to develop general knowledge and broaden awareness. Time lapse videos, how-to-do videos are encouraged, too, so that members can learn from each other.
“At the end of each month, all the participants receive personalised certificates which give them a sense of appreciation, excitement, and recognition and boosts them to participate repeatedly by posting more art works, thereby continuing to inspire their commitment to art,” she adds. And true enough, a visit to the webpage will have umpteen thankyou messages from recipients of the certificates jumping out excitedly, exuding exhilaration of a very special kind!
Today ABCD - ANY BODY CAN DRAW has 5100+ members from all parts of the world. The group now has talented artists from six continents and almost 50+ countries and can proudly be called an international online art group. Every day, the group members post different varieties of art varying from professionally done oil paintings, simple cartoons, optical illusion art …to even simple, colourful Rangoli.
Artistic creations on various media; stone, canvas, glass bottles, umbrellas, suitcases, dresses, garments, realistic forms, portraits, cartoons, mandala art, 3-dimensional creations, hyper-realistic art, landscapes, geometric designs, abstracts, optical illusion, glass paintings, Rangoli, perspective drawings, paintings of birds and animals, quilting works, embroidery are all displayed in the group daily.
This common platform for showcasing art has helped in discovering newer forms of art and, members learn from each other, too. “According to latest statistics, the group has seen a 467% growth in a month. Every month sees more than 700-800 posts by various artists,” Shreya says, beaming with joy. “For me, ABCD is a just a stepping stone in my path to encouraging people to enter the gateway to discovering their artistic side. As an artist, I conduct art classes for kids where I teach drawing, colouring, painting, perspective drawings, Zentangle, Warli and more. I want children to incorporate art as a part of their life and not as a burdensome subject. I teach them to mix 2-3 forms of art and bring more variety, vibrancy and uniqueness to their work. This mix and match excites their imagination and motivates them to do better.” She has often been invited to judge art competitions and conduct workshops. “One such project was a workshop I was invited to conduct in Chennai Customs Office especially for ladies on ‘How Mandala Art can be used to deal with stress and gain happiness’ and I look forward to more opportunities in the future.”
“If I can inspire others and bring more colour and happiness into their life, I would consider myself to be successful as an artist. I want art to become an important part of everyone’s life, in school and college curriculums, even in hospitals or clinics, because art is not only beautiful, but also very therapeutic and relaxing for the mind, body and soul!”
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