BELAGAVI: The floor is his canvas, fingers his brush and colourful rangoli powders his medium. Anyone visiting his studio will be floored by his portraits. He knows the limitations of this art, yet he chose it and has won accolades for his life-like images of icons. Ajit Mahadev Ourwadkar (51), of Nazar Camp, Vadgaon in Belagavi, is a popular name in the artists fraternity here for his vibrant and colourful floor art. His images are so sharp and beautiful that it is difficult to make out whether it is an oil painting or a Rangoli portrait, say visitors to his studio. Ajit, who has been doing portraits for the past one decade, has drawn over 100 Rangoli portraits of various personalities on their birthdays and other occasions. The art of painting is a unique skill which an artist can explore in many ways.
Among the popular art forms are water painting, oil painting and acrylic painting, etc. But Ajit draws impressive and attractive portraits in Rangoli using stone powder and colour powders. Ajit has done a diploma in fine arts in Belagavi and taught at Uma School of Art for four years from 1997 to 2000. But as the school shut down following a government order, he lost the job and started hating painting and arts.
He then opened a photo studio in his house for his livelihood. But how can an artist stay away from his love for arts? After a gap of 12 years he returned to his passion. When Shiv Sena leader Balasaheb Thackeray died, his family members urged him to do a painting of the patriarch. They even bought colours and brushes for him. But as he vowed not to touch a brush, he drew the portrait of Balasaheb with Rangoli powder. Since then, he started experimenting and drawing portraits using Rangoli powders.
His skill lies in drawing life-like portraits. If he is given a photograph, he studies it and then reproduces it exactly and brightens it up with colourful Rangoli powders blending them and getting the right mix, shade and tone. Visitors to his studio believe they are oil paintings or water colours. After a close examination, they are shocked to learn that they are Rangoli portraits.
Speaking to The New Sunday Express, Ajit says, “I have always had passion for arts since my childhood. Hence, I chose to study arts. I had to give it up for some years due to some unexpected incidents. But with the support and encouragement of my family, I started making Rangoli images, for which I got recognition and appreciation. I love to draw the portraits of great personalities on the occasion of their birthdays or on the days of their achievements. I have drawn the portraits of personalities like the Siddaganga seer and sitar maestro Pandit Ravishankar when they died as a tribute to them.Sitting on the floor, he takes hours to do a portrait. It takes patience and concentration as also ensuring that his artwork doesn’t get blown away by wind. He chooses hardboard because it ensures that the portrait doesn’t get damaged or destroyed for at last one week. He first places the hardboard on the floor in his studio, sticks white or brown paper on it and then draws the sketch of a portrait he intends to do with a pencil. Then he mixes the powders and slowly a portrait takes shape under his deft hands. He uses stone powder and lake colours which he gets from Satara, Kolhapur and Mumbai. While lake colour costs Rs 500 per kg, white stone powder costs Rs 20 per kg. He spends Rs 500 to Rs 600 on colours and other materials for every artwork. The portraits are only for display. He doesn’t allow the visitors to touch them.
He ensures that his studio is dust-, wind and insect-free, otherwise his effort would go waste. He says with satisfaction, “I am happy for the appreciation I am receiving for my work. As I want to teach these special skills to the next generation, I plan to start classes from December at my house.” “ After drawing the Rangoli portraits, I keep them for public view in my photo studio at least for one week. Many curious people regularly visit and exclaim over the portraits. Renowned Marathi actors Deepak Karanjikar and Mohan Joshi have visited my house and have appreciated my work. I was felicitated on several occasions,” he adds. Ajit takes about eight to twelve hours to draw one Rangoli portrait. His dream is to make the biggest Rangoli portrait.