UDUPI: For you and me, a fallen leaf is a waste to be thrown away or converted into manure. But for this 36-year-old Udupi man, it is a blank canvas that takes a form of its own under his deftly handled scalpel. As Mahesh Marne dives into his creative sphere, images of Lord Krishna, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and the map of India with a message wishing 75th year of Independence emerge. Though moving swiftly, he ensures that the delicate veins of the Peepal leaf are not cut as they are key to his artwork.
Mahesh has studied only till SSLC, but that has not stopped him from excelling in his unique art form. He has been an artist since his primary days at US Nayak High School, Patla, Udupi district. Mahesh’s drawing teacher Sadananda Panchanabettu noticed his talent and motivated him to pursue it further.
Intense training of 18 months at CE Kamath Institute for Artisans in Miyar, Karkala taluk, on stone and wood was the perfect foundation he needed. At Swaroopa Adhyayana Kendra, Mangaluru, he worked as an artist for 10 years where he learnt the nuances and sharpened his skills. He has worked on tableaus with themes representing coastal Karnataka that have taken part in the famous Mysuru Dasara five times. He has also designed the stage for various cultural and religious functions.
As Mahesh excelled in creating tiny sculptures on stone, wood, foam sheet, vegetables, chalkpiece and soaps, it was the Covid pandemic-induced lockdown that motivated him to pick up a fallen leaf and infuse life into it. “I knew that a lot of patience was required to carve images on a leaf as I cannot erase what is already done. A lot of imagination and perfection is required. But by God’s grace, I have managed to impress many,” says Mahesh with humility. “I use a leaf that has freshly fallen from a tree as it makes my job a little easy. I first soak the leaf in water and then start carving,” he explains.
Gopadkar, Director, Swaroopa Adhyayana Kendra, Mangaluru, said Mahesh groomed himself as a stone and wood artist. At the Kendra, he excelled in designing the stage, reflecting his ability to maintain patience and apply skills on any given medium of art. “He is always calm and it reflects in his art. I am mesmerised by his speed,” he adds.
He has drawn portraits of over 100 couples. Mahesh has many records to his credit. He received the ‘Exclusive World Records’ certificate in March this year for making the ‘fastest portrait on leaf’’ of Sachin Tendulkar in seven minutes. In 2015, Mahesh created an idol of Lord Ganesha with 3,500 ice-cream sticks and 750 matchsticks and entered the ‘India Book of Records’. As he does not want the art to stop with him, he has been training children by holding to train them in leaf art.
The journey so far...
1. Mahesh started as a stone and wood artist
2. The pandemic-induced lockdown motivated him to establish himself as a leaf artist
3. He received the ‘Exclusive World Records’ certificate in March this year for creating the ‘fastest portrait on leaf’ of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in seven minutes
4. Mahesh organises camps and trains children in this unique art form