Speed artist Vilas Nayak wants to prove that art too can be entertaining

Fans of India’s Got Talent would know, but watching Vilas Nayak do his speed painting act, first of Gabbar Singh and then Sachin Tendulkar (upside down), gives one goose bumps. Perhaps it’s because he’s so intensely focused, bringing out the portraits in broad, sure strokes of paint within minutes.

And Vilas Nayak is a self-taught artist. “I was brought up in a small village called Ujire in Mangalore district. It’s a beautiful place with a view of the Kudremukh ghat. Nature inspired me to start painting and I learnt through trial and error.”

Vilas continued to pursue his passion through school and college and only recently quit his job, in 2011, as a HR professional as offers started pouring in.

“The first time I saw a speed art performance was in college by the artist B.K.Verma. And that’s what gave me the idea. I got to know while practising that I can actually sketch very fast. My initial stage performances took 15 minutes, for a two feet canvas. But now with practise, I can create a five feet painting in three to five minutes,” he explains.

“My act falls into the innovative act, there are very few artists in the world who do this and I specialize in creating portraits. Hopefully in the future I can shorten the duration or increase my accuracy.”

For Vilas it is not only important that he completes the painting, but that it should be accurate (when it comes to profiles) that too within the time frame. And it is important, during this time, that the crowd is entertained, which is why music is an important part of his performance. His portrait of Gabbar Singh was accompanied by dialogues for the movie, and the Sachin Tendulkar painting was accompanied by the track ‘Aashayen’

“I shouldn’t just be standing there and painting. I should move around, face the crowd, clap and cheer them. So it’s a choreographed act, timed with the music. Sometimes I create the paintings upside down, because it keeps the audience guessing.”

This is why he sticks to painting subjects which are easily recognisable while showing how art too can be entertaining. “Painting is usually perceived as a passion that you pursue at leisure, at your studio at home. But I want to prove that painting can also be represented in an entertaining way, like music or dance. There are artists all over the world doing this but they usually work with portraits. I want to explore some more and come up with different experiences each time I go on stage.” Vilas has started working with corporate events and performances for countries or organizations, where he works on paintings that convey a message.

“I also perform for NGOs where I have created paintings based on social issues. So I don’t only work with portraits, though portraits are my area of expertise.”

All or none

Expert he may be, but Vilas says each time he steps on stage he is taking a risk. “That’s because the performance is either a big hit or a big flop. It’s not like any other act where I can recover, a singer can return to the note, a dancer can improvise, but if I make a mistake I can’t erase it on canvas, I just have to carry on with it, sometimes the crowd may not know but if it’s a big mistake, it’s quite obvious to everyone. So every time I go on stage, I am tense.”

Vilas gradually hopes to get back to his roots in fine art, even perhaps hosting an exhibition sometime.

“Fine art requires patience while live painting, which is what I do now, demand impatience because you have to finish it off in a few minutes. It’s difficult to manage both as of now. But I’m slowly moving there.”