Stories from ancient Kerala in paint

Artist Manoj Mathasseril

Artist Manoj Mathasseril  

Artist Manoj Mathasseril, through his YouTube channel, explores the charm and relevance of traditional Kerala murals

Artist Manoj Mathasseril is painting curly wisps of a cloud on white paper. The sky is a deep red, a combination of burnt sienna and scarlet. The day’s class is on how to paint clouds and the sky in a traditional Kerala mural. The Kochi-based artist’s YouTube channel, Art with Manoj Mathasseril, has been garnering viewers.

Launched during the lockdown, the channel is Manoj’s attempt at creating awareness on Kerala murals and helping aspiring artists learn basic techniques. “Mural is best learnt in a physical classroom. However, for artists who are just starting out, these sessions would be helpful,” says Manoj.

He explains the processes and stories of the centuries-old painting style in a simplified manner and takes the viewers through basic strokes and shading. Over 21 episodes, the channel has got 1.32k subscriptions. Manoj encourages his viewers to interact with him, clear doubts and share their works. “What I am trying to do is give the historical context,” says Manoj.

Of olden times

Having learnt mural art from the Indian School of Art in Kochi, Manoj says, “Kerala murals have a unique charm. Most of the murals in the old temples of Kerala were done between the 15th and 19th centuries by unnamed artists,” says Manoj. “We have lost many of these works of art over time as some of the structures that held it were destroyed or worn down. Many temple authorities have undertaken restoration of old murals, too. Apart from its artistic value, the old murals also reflected the life of those times,” Manoj says.

Ancient traditional murals were done using natural colours on lime-plastered walls. The murals used only five basic colours — ochre red, ochre yellow, green, black and white — which were made using natural materials such as laterite, coal, patina and leaves. The brushes were made using grass and the fine hair in calves’ ears. Over time, when synthetic paints came about, artists started doing murals in acrylic on canvas or paper.

Manoj prefers water colour for his murals as he feels the effect is closest to the old-world mural. A lime-washed hard board works best as a canvas. However, for those who prefer paper, Manoj recommends smooth white paper or high quality chart paper. “Water colour is an easier medium; it does not have the sheen of acrylic and corrections are easier to make.”

Over time, murals became mainstream. “Improvisations came in. Even the colour blue is being used now, which is traditionally not done,” says Manoj. He reiterates that murals cannot be mastered online; and that it takes years of practice and learning. “My tutorials are just a guide to mural lovers and beginners,” Manoj says.

The artist also does live sessions with Q and A. “There is so much to talk about murals, there is enough material to run a thousand episodes,” he signs off.

Manoj’s YouTube Channel is

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 7:42:15 PM |

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