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Art of the possible

Micro art is J. Venkatesh's passion. A chat with the Fine Arts student, who has executed scores of portraits on a novel medium — mustard seeds.

From pretty portraits to flags of various countries, artist J. Venkatesh has captured them all. So what's new about the endeavour, you might ask. But hold on... his medium is different. Mustard seeds to be precise.

Yes... art on mustard seeds is this student of Fine Arts' passion. You can hardly see his works, except through a magnifying glass, but that's no deterrent to this creator of miniature marvels.

In fact, miniatures have been Venkatesh's obsession since childhood. He dabbled in such micro art even in his school days, sketching portraits on khus khus, rice grains, dal and other "potential medium" from the kitchen. As a class six student, he accomplished the task of writing 650 Thirukurals on a post card!

As he displays his incredible collection during an interface, Venkatesh speaks at length about the nuances of his distinctive art. "From the beginning, I found the medium of mustard seeds challenging. I use the unique Andhra variety that's a shade bigger than the usual ones. The drawings are executed with micro tip pencils. Oil and poster colours are sometimes used to enhance the works. Most of the sketches are done from memory. If the subject is deeply etched on my mind, I am through in ten minutes. But, even if a single stroke goes wrong, I have to start afresh."

Talented, yet unassuming, Venkatesh who is doing his second year at the Government College of Fine Arts, Egmore, goes on ... "Initially, I never used a magnifying lens. So headaches and watering eyes were common. Now, I guess, I've got used to it."

Hoping to make it to the Guinness and the Limca Book of World Records, the youngster is now looking for support to carry his artistic endeavours forward. Future plans include drawing landscapes on his mini medium! Venkatesh is also an adept at wooden sculptures with a "contemporary flavour."

Going through the display of his micro art leaves one awe-struck. There are portraits of international celebrities such as Princess Diana and Bill Clinton, local politicians, sports personalities, film stars and images of deities. That's not all, the mustard seeds are also the canvas on which the artist has sketched the beautiful Taj Mahal. Other works feature the globe, the English alphabet, flags of different countries and even some verses. "I can do custom made spot portraits too on mustard seeds," he adds.

All this and much more to prove the art of the possible... His medium might be small, but Venkatesh is sure to hit big time some day.


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