When we, The Arte House, decided to start a blog featuring upcoming creative talents from Kerala, a question came as to whose interview we should conduct first. Kannan Chitralaya’s name popped out in no time. The followers of our page are already a great fan of his artworks. His unique style of painting using multiple colors has almost a magical effect on the viewers, besides giving the artworks a realistic feel. He promptly accepted our request for an interview. Thank you, Kannan Chitralaya for being with us today. Let us start the interview:
" An image is composed of multiple colors. An ordinary person might see only a single shade in a portrait. But, on observing thoroughly, an artist can find traces of blue, green, violet and many such colors. Identifying these colors determines the success of an artist. "
During High School, I would participate in art competitions and win prizes. But, it was during the 9th standard vacations that I decided to take art seriously. After my High School, I was forced to take jobs like publicity works, hoardings, boards and banner painting. Later when demand for these jobs decreased, I shifted to portrait painting.
Did you get any kind of professional training?
No. I didn’t learn art from any Institutions. I had plans of learning Fine Arts after my 10th Standard. But, it never materialized.
What inspired you to get into this field?
My elder sister used to draw in her childhood. As a 5-year-old, her paintings might have influenced the artist in me. Later, when I began to win art competitions in school, my mother and elder sister encouraged me a lot.
Your favourite work?
To be frank, I love all of my paintings equally. The portrait of my grandmother was one work which I personally consider to be a brilliant one.
You have a unique style of painting. Did you develop this style or is this a category of art?
Actually, this became a style after I started painting that way. It was never a deliberate process. Instead, it is a result of many years of continuous practice and hard work. My friends would often tell me that there is no need for formally signing my art works. This style is enough to identify my works.
Which mediums do you prefer?
In the initial phases, I was ignorant of water color and would make pencil drawings. Over time, I have extensively worked in almost all mediums. Now, it is water color that I love the most.
Is Chitralaya the name of your art Institute? How many students do you teach?
It’s purely a misconception. Chitralaya is not the name of my Institute. Rather, it is my pen-name. I sign all my artworks as Chitralaya, not Kannan. As of now, I teach a few students in my home. I have plans to start a teaching center in Thrissur.
What do you think are the hardships faced by people selecting art as a source of livelihood?
Due to God’s grace, I haven’t run into a financial crisis for the past 22 years as an artist. But, the bitter truth is that it is pretty difficult to get a livelihood through art in India. As I told you before, I turned to portrait paintings because of the decreasing demand for publicity works like boards and banner paintings. Even in portraits, there are a lot of artists, out of which, only the top brilliant ones have job security. All others are forced to abandon art and search for other jobs to run their homes.
You recently drew the portrait of Kalabhavan Mani (Indian Actor) in a Television programme. How much time did you practice?
Actually, I was practicing an entirely different artwork for the show “Comedy Uthsavam” in Flowers Channel (a Television Channel in India). But, one day before the programme, I got a call asking me to draw the portrait of Kalabhavan Mani. So, what you saw that day was the result of my one day’s practice.
Do you find any problems among the upcoming, younger generation of artists?
One problem I find among the new generation of art students is that when they get an original photo, they take a print of it and make a sketch out of it. Such students are usually incapable of doing free-hand sketches. On the other hand, we learned art by dividing the image into grids and making a sketch with the help of it. The proper method that I recommend is to learn the measures and the basic anatomy. It’s only when you learn point by point that your work becomes detailed and realistic.
Any other advice for art students?
Yup. An image is composed of multiple colors. An ordinary person might see only a single shade in a portrait. But, on observing thoroughly, an artist can find traces of blue, green, violet and many such colors. Identifying these colors determines the success of an artist. What I personally do is that, if I find such a trace of color, I accentuate that particular color, giving the whole painting a unique feel. Many people fail to identify these colors and finish their works in a single color, shade or washing.
Another advice is that an artist should never duplicate an original photo. It’s only when we add our ideas into an artwork that a creation is born. There are many artists specializing in hyper-realistic paintings. These brilliant artists create works which cannot even be distinguished from original photos. That’s another category of art. But, what I strongly believe is that creations are more valuable. New creations are the virtue of a true artist.
Born in the Kizhuppillikkara village of Thrissur, Kerala, India in 1981, Kannan Chitralaya is a self-taught artist. His family consists of his wife Lathika and three children- Neelambari, Yadhav, and Souparnika. His elder sister Sindhu is married and working as a Pharmacist in Daya Hospital, Thrissur. He has grabbed first price in three All India Competitions including the latest Rang Sang Art Competition. He has won several other awards and recognitions. Kannan Chitralaya is presently busy preparing for his upcoming solo exhibition in the Water-color Bienalle at Delhi in August 2018. We highly recommend you to visit his art page on facebook " Kannan Chitralaya Arts ":-
An article about him was also published in the New Indian Express.