KOCHI: Ever since he starting painting, Manu KM was sure he didn’t want his creative process to be mundane. “I started drawing when I was a child and haven’t undergone any professional training. I cannot draw realistic paintings. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary and that is when I came up with the concept of leaf art,” says 21-year-old artist Manu takes around one to three hours to complete one artwork, depending on the sketch and leaf used. “Etching the face of a male is easier compared to that of a female,” he says.
He uses leaves of wild jack wood, jack tree and banyan tree for his creations, but his favourite is wild jack wood leaf. Leaf art is done by sketching on the leaf first and later making it into a stencil, carving out unwanted bits. "Many youngsters have told me that they started experimenting with leaf art after seeing my works. I’m really proud to have inspired them," says the B.Com graduate.
The artist began working with leaves almost two years back. “Initially, I tried to develop animal figures, birds and components from nature. Eventually, I started etching sketches of public figures on these leaves. Unni Mukundan, Bineesh Bastin, Kunchacko Boban, Jayasurya, Indrajith Sukumaran, Neeraj Madhav, Pearle Maaney, Anu Sithara and Joseph Annamkutty are few of the faces you will find on my works,” he says.
The celebrities shared Manu’s art on social media, which was shared and seen by many, giving him encouragement. “It was after Jayasurya sir posted the picture of the art online that I began getting a lot of offers for leaf art,” adds Manu, who is also an Executive officer at an international bank in Kakkanad.
Being viral on Instagram and Tiktok has brought Manu orders and attention. Now he sells the artworks for Rs 350 and the framed ones for Rs 1,000. “The leaves parch easily and must be preserved before framing. I buy a liquid online for this purpose and it is quite expensive. Hence the high cost of art,” Manu adds.