Artist Chitramitra, who makes a live performance act of art, says his years of struggle have helped him evolve a philosophy of art and life

Chitramitra made 1,008 drawings as a five-year-old and presented it to his teacher. He then drew 600 sketches in a 300 page notebook and brought it for her to school. He did so for the next two days. On the third day he was taken to the principal and received a slap for not doing his lessons. “Opposition from my teachers and father towards my art has propelled me forward in this field,” says Chitramitra, aka Prashant Shetty who has carved out a career as an artist away from his family’s hotel business in Mumbai. He was in the city recently and held a caricaturing workshop at Nannappa Art Gallery, did performance art with music at Chithrasala Art Gallery in Mattancherry and live caricaturing at Vasco Square in Fort Kochi. At all three venues Chitramitra attracted an audience and impressed with his skill and a mysterious effusion that marked the movements of his drawing pen or brush when it touched paper or canvas.

Live performance with music is Chitramitra’s unique style of expression. He completes a sketch while a song plays. Drawing, illustrations, caricatures, cartooning, working in acrylics, watercolours and clay modelling are some of his other styles. “I am self-taught,” says the 41-year-old. He recalls visiting the stationery store outside JJ School of Arts to see and learn what art materials the students were buying. “I craved to join art school and needed to learn about the nuances of art,” he says. As a youngster while working in his family hotel he used to draw on the walls and on bits of paper.

As his work and his obsession for art began to get noticed, Chitramitra got offers for small works from Mid-Day and Magna Publications.

Illustrating for periodicals

His work was appreciated and demand for illustrations began pouring in. He got to work for upmarket lifestyle magazines and for a reputed national daily. Editors began calling him to discuss stories. “It built my confidence,” he recalls. Despite the estrangement with his father, Chitramitra managed to hold his first show at Bajaj Art Gallery in Mumbai, in 2000, where most of his works were sold. “It was a big boost. I felt that my father would finally acknowledge my art but it never happened,” he says and carried on regardless, bearing the hurt. Acquiring the sobriquet, Chitramitra, is a little tale that he loves to tell. It was an astrologer who forecasted a great future in art and gave him the name. For some time he also dabbled in teaching art at schools in Bangalore.

If his difficult early years have scarred him they have also helped him evolve his philosophy about art and life. The artist, he believes is an instrument of God and should be always well-turned out. He should be accessible to the people, his audience. “I have a special relationship with God,” says Chitramitra who paints with his fingers and hands using charcoal and paint during live performances. “In those times I lose myself,” he says looking forward to his next big show at Bellary on October 4 where he is set to paint seven foot high works.

At one of his live performance shows he was strangely offered to join in a “project”. Little did he know then that the offer was for a film, Shantiniketan by director Karthik Shinde. He agreed and has completed the film that now awaits a November release. Meanwhile, he has received three offers for films, two for negative roles and one for a role in a Malayalam film! That’s something for an artist’s maiden visit to a city, he quips.