A modern twist to Kalamkari

Dr Aarthi Rao wants her paintings to make people feel good about themselves

Published: 08th February 2017 10:23 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2017 05:34 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Nageswara Rao Park, Mylapore, saw a myriad of beautiful canvases and hues on Sunday, and one such stall was by Dr Aarthi Rao, a resident doctor at SIMS Hospitals who moonlights as an artist. She has been passionate about art since she was a child, and drew only during art classes in school and devoted the rest of her time to studies. She did MBBS from JIPMER, Pondicherry and moved to Chennai after her marriage. “I graduated and realised that I should be following my passion.

Romani Agrawal

The unwavering support from my family and husband have been my biggest source of strength,” she smiles, and talks about how their feedback and support motivates her. “My art work has also improved tremendously because of this feedback, and it has brought me to a position where I can even participate in exhibitions.” Aarthi started with doodling, pigment liners and simple sketches and moved on to acrylics and canvases. She had a tryst with water-colours as well, and talks about Intober, which is an event every October. “This is when you draw a piece every day for a month using pen and ink.

I took this up as a challenge too,” she says, and talks about a booklet that she maintains. She also makes handicrafts, jewellery, T-shirt designing and more. She has taken it truly digital and even draws on her phone! “I want people to feel good when they look at my work. I am not in it to make money,” she says, and shares her preference for brighter colours over paintings with a washed out effect. The artist has a fascination with Kalamkari and loves experimenting and in a fusion of traditional and modern.

“Traditionally kalamkari is a little faded. I use brighter colours, try my own motifs and give it my own twist,” she says. “I only think about how it will look when hung in a home. I don’t really try to convey a strong message through my paintings. I just want to make people happy.” How does she juggle between being a doctor and an artist? “It’s difficult, no doubt. But I start painting the moment I’m back home. MBBS is very hectic but it’s taught me how to push myself and so I do that when I have events and exhibitions coming up,” she smiles. The artist loves the infectious energy and awareness in the city.

“People are interested in art, and seem to know a lot about it. They know what kalamkari is, and what certain designs should look like,” she opines. Organisations like Madras Corporation and local newspapers have also supported her artistic cause and helped with the exhibits. “It’s a wonderful opportunity when people like Vincent D’ Souza and Ganapathi A Subramaniam help artists like us who aren’t very professional or well settled as yet,” she says. Checkout her work at:


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp