The character of a man can be seen in his eyes says Sathiraju Sankara Narayana about his favourite feature in a portrait. The 77-year-old portraitist’s series Sketching on eminent personalities was recognised as a national record by the India Book of Records in 2011. His portfolio includes around 1700 portraits of personalities from politics, sports, film, philosophy, Kannada literature and so on. His work has been published in numerous dailies and he was felicitated with the ‘Mysore Turban’ in 2011 following his first exhibition in Bangalore.
The artiste considers an acknowledgment of his work as the best reward.“R K Laxman was too ill to write, so he called me and appreciated the portrait I drew of him,” he says. President Barack Obama and Prince Charles’s office too have appreciated his work. “I know it’s their secretary but even that is enough.”
Family and Art
Sankara did not find it necessary to take any formal training. “My father used to draw all the time, my older brother Bapu is an artist as well. I believe my skill is hereditary.” Inspired by his father and an artistically inclined older brother, a young Sankara naturally turned to art to pass time. He began with cartoons and soon moved to portraits, using charcoal to etch well defined features in all his works.
“My favourite artist is my brother. Why do I need to look elsewhere when I have him? Every week, I show him the portraits I make and he appreciates it,” he says of his brother Bapu, a national award winning film director and artist.
Moments of Pride
Recollecting an interview for a job, he says he got an opportunity to share his favourite portrait with the interviewers. “I’d done a portrait of Winston Churchill, and they were very impressed with it. I could highlight a few strong features with charcoal.”
He once received a call from a villager who’d seen his work in Navya and requested a portrait of his late father. But the irony was the only picture the family had was when he was on his deathbed. Although it was difficult to recreate especially with the eyes shut, Sankara was able to visualise the shape of the eyes perfectly. “The son's happiness gave me immense satisfaction,” said Sankara.