Artist’s work is hot and happening

R.Vignesh creates portraits through pyrography, a technique where he directs sunlight through a magnifying glass on to specific parts of the wooden plaque.

R.Vignesh creates portraits through pyrography, a technique where he directs sunlight through a magnifying glass on to specific parts of the wooden plaque.

A clear sky and a ray of sunshine are enough for R. Vignesh, 30, to get started on his artwork. Though the self-taught artist from Mayiladuthurai is talented in 3-D hyperrealist imagery and oil painting, it is pyrography that has caught his attention of late.

Pyrography is the freehand art of decorating wooden and other surfaces with burn marks from the controlled application of a heat source. In Mr. Vignesh’s case, the heat comes from the sun. On any given day, he ventures out at 9 a.m. into the broad daylight with his art supplies - wooden plaque, magnifying glasses, protective gloves and a broad-rimmed hat – and literally burns out designs by focusing the sun’s rays on specific parts of the plaque.

“I became interested in drawing, especially portraiture, when I was bed-ridden with a back complaint in 2017. Art was a way for me to forget my problems and also perhaps earn a little money,” Mr. Vignesh, a diploma holder in electrical and electronic engineering, told The Hindu .

Financial constraints and family responsibilities brought Mr. Vignesh back to his maternal hometown of Mayiladuthurai from Chennai six years ago.

Teaching himself how to draw with the help of online video tutorials, Mr. Vignesh didn’t realise his true potential until the lockdown. “I started putting out portraits of celebrities, especially south Indian film stars, on social media, which got a good response. During lockdown, a private cable channel bought 25 video drawing tutorials from me for its children’s section. For the first time, my art earned me ₹12,500. I was thrilled,” he said.

His foray into pyrography, inspired by American artist Michael Papadakis, has been eventful too. He was one of 11 artists chosen to create promotional material in the form of an NFT (non-fungible token) for the Tamil film Rocky , directed by Arun Matheswaran.

NFTs are cryptographic assets on a blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata.

The digital artwork titled ‘Hours of Shade’ shows Mr. Vignesh creating a poster for the movie. Shot with the help of a friend’s mobile camera, and listed on the Foundation app, it was auctioned for 0.35 ethereum (approximately ₹64,000) earlier this month.

“Instead of using a pencil outline to guide me, I had to brand the lines of the poster directly on to the wood, as this adds value to the artwork. I nearly gave up after the first try because the cameraman had used the wrong angle, but the second attempt turned out to be lucky for me,” said Mr. Vignesh.

The digital foray will help artists to earn royalties in the long term, said Govan Charan, the Chennai-based technology enthusiast, beatboxer and art collector who has introduced Vignesh and other local artists to NFT.

“Existing social media platforms are getting saturated. NFT has opened doors for artists like Vignesh to reach out to a wider audience and more collaborative projects, beyond movie-centric promotions,” Mr. Charan said.

For Mr. Vignesh, though, pyrography will remain a passion along with all the other techniques he has picked up. “I hope to be able to support my folks through my art, and also to find a phone that will not get too hot in the sun,” he said.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 1:23:14 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/artists-work-is-hot-and-happening/article38324217.ece