Sathiya Thilai Raj is one among the small but growing tribe of artists who fuse art and technology to create their masterpieces.

From Realism, Impressionism to Abstract, painting styles have evolved — each influenced by its own era. The late 19th and 20th centuries have seen the evolution of a new genre influenced by technology, metal paint tube and photography — Photorealism, Super Realism, Sharp Focus Realism, Hyper Realism — you can label it whatever and argue over the minute differences between the styles, but ultimately they’re all art styles where the painter creates a painting which looks more like a large, sharply focused photo than anything else.

With brands like Apple using a photo realistic picture of Morgan Freeman in the promo video of the new iPad, photorealism has come to stay and this marks the advent of a new phase of art.

Sathiya Thilai Raj, 26, a young artist from Chennai, is one among the few artists to have dived into the art of photorealism. He talks to us about his craftsmanship and his photorealistic paintings.

How did you discover your talent?

Right through my childhood I had the habit of drawing and painting. I used to draw biology diagrams for all my friends in school. There was an artist who lived near my street and owned a small shop there. His paintings always caught my attention. One day, when I was in Std V, out of enthusiasm I approached him with my novice paintings and drawings. He saw a talent in me that I was unaware of. He encouraged me and meticulously taught me the basics of painting. I used to watch him do his work and when he had time he taught me.

What happened next?

I quit school after Std X to pursue my passion for art. To learn more about paintings I started travelling from my hometown Virudhachalam to Cuddalore, which is about 70 km away. I even got an apprenticeship with a famous artist, Surya. I used to paint the first iteration of the painting for him and he used to finish it. I worked with him for six to eight months and finally returned to Virudhachalam to set up my own studio.

Was it easy in the beginning?

No, it wasn’t. There was a point in time where my family, like any other typical Indian family, thought that being an artist was not a serious job. Due to family pressure, I was forced to let go of something I loved the most and race through to finish college and post-graduation. I had to close down my shop, and moved to the city in this process.

After graduation and a couple of odd jobs I once again started painting with a renewed vigour. I currently work with Renault as a language specialist and I paint after work every day. I own a small gallery in Mamallapuram by the name of Aatma. I make paintings to order for my clients. It is quite challenging to pursue your passion while trying to sustain yourself with another job.

Tell us about your work…

Photorealism is a style which often seems more real than reality, with details down to the last grain of sand and wrinkle on someone’s face. Nothing is left out and nothing is too insignificant to not be included in the painting. This form of art requires high level of craftsmanship; it is tough and a rare style of painting. It took me a few years to perfect this art. Since photorealism is all about going the extra mile, it takes me around two months to finish each painting. Each painting also costs me about Rs. 10,000 for the stationery alone. I have completed ten paintings. I usually take inspiration from a photograph and add my own creativity to it.

Tell us about your work for ‘Save the Tiger’ project.

Most of my photorealistic paintings depict our Royal Bengal Tigers. They are majestic creatures and make beautiful paintings. Tigers are beautiful animals and should not be poached and traded. I am currently working on a project where, with these paintings, I want to create awareness toward the depleting number of tigers in India. Once my paintings are ready to display I am planning to hold an all-India exhibition where I will unveil these paintings in 10 Indian cities such as Pondicherry, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai etc. The money collected from the sale of the paintings will go to the ‘Save the Tiger’ foundation.

The exhibition will start from March end. The entire project is funded by me as I haven’t got an opportunity to get any sponsorship yet.

Check out his work on his FB page: www.facebook.com/strtheartist

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