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Updated: September 14, 2010 19:13 IST

Face of a portrait

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Capturing light and shade: Deepak Battal. Photo: Murali Kumar K.
The Hindu Capturing light and shade: Deepak Battal. Photo: Murali Kumar K.

Deepak Battal believes that a face is indeed a most beautiful thing. He captures faces in strokes of charcoal. The Belgaum-based amateur now works from his home studio, doing commissioned portraits for people all over the country.

“My grandfather would say every face is beautiful. When you see a 100 objects, your mind will tend to find a face among them. We all have something for a human face,” is how 34-year-old Deepak Battal describes his passion for making charcoal portraits.

The Belgaum-based amateur now works from his home studio, doing commissioned portraits for people all over the country. But it was a jump start for Deepak, who, till three years ago was in the marketing field. A commerce graduate, he says he marketed everything ranging from “computers to concepts, and fax machines”, till one day, three years ago, he decided he wanted to learn drawing portraits.

While he enjoyed drawing from his childhood, it was always done in phases. “Till about three years ago, I hadn't been able to break the barrier of making portraits. For three months I just practised and figured it out. It's like cycling or swimming — you need to figure it out yourself and you won't forget it for life,” he grins.

Picking up intricacies

For days on end he would just sit sketching his own hand. Then he did machines, cars and bikes. “Machines have solid defined lines and fixed shapes. There are a lot of components to it, so your drawing skill becomes more intricate,” he explains his method. For two years he did only pencil sketches. “But pencil has its limitations. It has a tinge of colour and doesn't give much depth to a portrait.” Charcoal is considered a difficult medium to start with, because it doesn't allow for sharp lines.

Deepak always starts with the eyes. “When you look at a person's face, you tend to focus on the eyes; the vision rests there. If you don't define the eyes properly, you don't get a proper image.” Earlier he would take 15 minutes to do a portrait. Now he takes up to 15 days. “Now I'm able to see more and more in a photograph. I try to make subtle changes, but I don't like to add anything to reality. Reality is in itself is so complete; adding or subtracting is only to beautify an image.”

Deepak had come to Bangalore when he was 23 with hopes of getting himself enrolled in the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. “When I made enquiries, I was wondering ‘It will take me five years to learn all this…can't I do it on my own?' Moreover, I couldn't afford the fee.” Of course, he concedes that if he had taken the course it would have provided him a professional platform to study art, and an environment and a sense of discipline that would have made him more professional.

Today he takes it more from his heart. He doesn't want to paint. Yet. “For me drawings are part of a thought process. Right now I can't think in terms of colours. There's so much unexplored in charcoal.”

But in an age when art, inventiveness and creativity are the buzzwords isn't doing portraits from pictures or seeing people's faces considered “copying”? “There's so much to reality…it's never-ending. There's so much to capture. And portraits are challenging.” The rather shy artist has exhibited at the Chitra Santhe 2010 and will be heading to the Mysore Chitra Santhe next.

While it's not really paying him much, he says an artists' life is hassle-free. “I like this. It's a frenzy when my drawing starts. For about five days I can't do anything else. Even when I sleep, it goes on in my mind.” He also busts the myth that charcoal paintings don't last. There's no case of colour saturation, he explains. If the paper is good and acid-free, it outlasts you, he insists.

Deepak Battal can be reached on 0-9538419430/ 0-7899158985 or email

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