For a long time, scholars and critics have been going at it. The ‘it’ in question is whether art is supposed to reflect reality or if it is supposed to present reality as it is. In this regard, caricature reflects reality in a quirky way. When I ask Sri Priyatham (@sripriyatham), a prominent caricature artist based in Hyderabad, why he chose caricature as his medium of expression, he gives me an immediate response. “It’s liberating” he says. “Other art forms are much more restrictive, but in caricature, you can make multiple iterations of a single object and all of them will be different.”
This is chiefly because in caricature, a particular feature of the subject is exaggerated or understated. Each attempt will have the artist shifting his focus onto different parts of the subject. “So the end result is something that looks like the subject, but is not entirely like the subject. It’s new every time.” With an arsenal of Artist’s pencils, Photoshop, an iPad Pro and…ballpoint pens? The possibilities for a Caricature artist are endless.
So has he been drawing caricatures from the start? “I have experimented with other art forms. I started off with watercolors, ink art and charcoal art. I even dabbled in animation for a while, before settling on stationary art forms. Now I mostly do caricatures, portraitures and doodles. Of late I’ve been thinking about getting back to my roots, and painting using watercolors” When it comes to caricature, he cites Jason Seiler and Jan Op De Beeck as his influences.
Scrolling through his Instagram feed, one finds subjects ranging from Ryuichi Sakamoto to Rajinikanth, and from Sacred Games to Stranger Things. This wide spectrum of subjects makes me ask, what does he usually like drawing? “I love drawing people who inspire me with their work, because it’s not only about art, it’s about understanding other art forms as well”.
True to this statement, his feed is a pop culture enthusiast’s wet dream. It’s chock full of filmmakers, musicians, composers, actors, and fictional characters who’ve inspired him. He also likes drawing pin-up models from Pintrest as they provide a lot of insight into the world of contemporary fashion.
He tells that what he draws depends upon the subject and also how he feels at the moment. Does that mean he doesn’t draw when he’s feeling a bit under the weather? “Not particularly. I always draw. When I’m down I tend to work slowly and take my time. But I’m still conscious about putting my complete effort into it”
Usually when Indian parents find out that their child wants to be something that is not in the holy trinity of jobs (i.e Doctors, Engineers, and Civil Servants) they’re quick to panic and analyze where they went wrong with all their years of careful parenting. This was not the case in Sri Priyatham’s life. “I received complete support from my parents. They saw me struggling with my studies and let me pursue my own path”
So what does he have to say to budding artists? “Practice without losing patience. Practice everyday and make it a part of your routine. That’s what it takes to beat the competition.”
Anyone who wants to be a professional artist has to put in more effort than the hobbyist. Sri Priyatham says that this is possible only when you have “an infinite amount of passion in what you want to do.” His passion for the craft is visible when he says “I can’t stop sketching and anyone who wants to make it big should feel the same.”
We start talking about the art scene in Hyderabad. He tells me that the Hyderabad art scene is still underground, when compared to other metros like Chennai and Bangalore. I’m told that five years ago the Hyderabad scene was completely dead. To use Sri Priyatham’s words “A chunk of the Hyderabad population is tech oriented so there are very few people who turn up for art related events.” Now he says that the state of the scene in Hyderabad has improved greatly and that “There is a lot of potential for growth here and things will get better eventually.”
He speaks highly of the art scene in Chennai and Bangalore, where there are “amazing, creative and enthusiastic crowds” (his words, not mine). Sri Priyatham feels that the responsibility falls upon artists to develop the scene, by coming together and consistently organizing workshops.
Sri Priyatham is one of those artists who picks up a pencil with the art community in mind. He tells me that there are a lot of caricature artists in India producing a lot of content, but they are mostly overlooked. He wants this to change and he does his part, through his workshops, talks and master-classes.
His workshops are beginner friendly and cover everything in Caricature, right from basic stuff like freehand sketching and basic shapes to concepts like exaggeration and diminution, over the course of a day. After extensively circuiting the southern metros, Sri Priyatham has his sights set on an island where there’s a Merlion prancing around in the water.
He began sketching at the age of ten, went on to get a degree in fine arts and is now a successful freelance illustrator and caricature artist conducting international Caricature Workshops and giving TEDx talks. So maybe letting your kids chase their dreams can’t be that bad…right?