I can’t think of another term apart from ‘prodigy’, but what else would you call an artist who does acrylics, watercolors, oils, abstract art along with mixed media art? But wait, there’s more. The person in question also dabbles in Photography, Graphic design, has recently taken to Scribble Art, and is also a skilled bilingual Calligrapher and Typographer to boot. The prodigy in question is Vinoth Kumar, or Artist6 (@artistsix) as he is popularly known as.
I ask Vinoth about the name Artist6, how did he come to be known as such? He begins by saying “In school I never got placed above the 6th rank” and soon he started noticing a pattern where the number six was following him everywhere from seats on the bus, hotel rooms and even the date of his wedding. Even at work when he presented people with a medley of options he noticed that they always went for the sixth one. This made Vinoth incorporate the number into his identity as an artist, and hence the moniker Artist6 was born. “After that almost everyone I’ve run into calls me as Art or 6 or Artist6, even my wife has me saved as ‘Aritst6’ in her phone”.
His foray into art began in kindergarten where he won the first prize in a drawing competition for drawing a helicopter. “I still remember that drawing, I colored the helicopter in red, yellow and green” When he was still crawling on all fours, his mother saw him making scribbling actions with his hand. It was his grandfather who decided to put a pencil in young Vinoth’s hand set him off on his artistic journey. “I always used to tell people that I wanted to become an Artist, some people would laugh when they heard that” From Vinoth’s success it looks like he’s the one having the last laugh.
So how did he come to be a photographer? “In school, when they used to take group pictures, everyone would be busy posing, but I’d be looking at the photographer and the camera. For me photography is all about freezing a moment in time. That’s what I try to explore through the camera” He specializes in candid photography and though he knows how to use software to bring out the best in an image, he prefers the pictures he takes to remain digitally untouched. “I’d call what people are doing nowadays as photo-art rather than photography” He also adds that he uses design software mostly in an official capacity to design everything from brochures to websites. “I started doing graphic design in 2004, at that time everyone went around saying that everything is digital and that art will have very little value in the future” He tells me that he learnt to use Photoshop CS5 on a friend’s desktop in 2004 and that he later learnt to do modeling, texturing and lighting.
Vinoth tells me that he learnt a lot about photography during his time as a Visual Communication student at a Government college, especially during the annual college trips. “When we were travelling I didn’t have enough time to sit and draw a subject, so I used to take pictures of what I wanted to draw and work on them later.” He tells me that he’s tried both film and digital cameras. For Vinoth, art has no boundaries. “It’s all about exploring the subject and I choose my medium according to the subject at hand. For instance if I’m drawing a natural landscape, I tend to use the realist style”
As if leaving a mark in all these areas wasn’t enough, he is also a skilled Typographer and Calligrapher. He began practicing Typography in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2013 that he started practicing it in his native tongue, Tamil. He tells me that his first attempt at Tamil Typography is etched permanently on his skin, in the form of tattoos that say ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. Vinoth tells me that his love for the Tamil language increased manifold after he learnt typography, “If we don’t respect our language, who will?”, but he was let down by the fact that there was no proper format for learning Tamil Typography. From what he says, Tamil Typography and Calligraphy aren’t exactly walks in a park, starting with the fact that there are 247 letters in Tamil, and most of the letters have fiendish curves which would test a beginner’s patience and morale.
Scribble art is one of his more recent efforts. He has been at it for the past three months. Even so, he has created a decent body of work. So how did he come to create these mesmerizing scribbles? “I saw a lot of people making oil paintings and realistic paintings and I wanted to try something different.” Though it has gained traction now, he says that his scribbles only evoked a lukewarm response at first. As the name suggests, drawing in this art form requires a lot of scribbling and Vinoth has made the medium his own by scribbling his favorite personalities on black and khaki colored backgrounds.
As he finishes telling me about Scribble art, I wonder how he finds time to practice. “I draw every day, whenever I get time. I don’t go to sleep unless I’ve drawn or scribbled something.” He tells me that we’re in the hands of time and not the other way around, so it falls upon us to prioritize the things in our life and practice accordingly. “I give five days for work and the remaining I take for myself. When it comes to art I give 100% of my efforts, with passion”
Vinoth tells me that one of the reasons for making art is to make his father proud, and from what he says, it seems like a Herculean task. Funnily enough his father wanted him to join the police or become an engineer. “My father came to my first exhibition in 2004 and asked me, why my drawings were so small. Till now he’s never given me his seal of approval” Despite this, in his final year at college, he realized that his Father’s nonchalant attitude was actually directed at making him a better artist. He owes a lot to his father and to his wife, saying that they are responsible for the artist he is today. “If you want to succeed at doing what you like, you can’t do it without any help”
Coming to the art scene in Chennai, Vinoth says, “A lot of people respect art and the artist even though they might not end up buying it. They’re enjoying and supporting art, and that’s what counts” To all artists out there he advocates patience, “You can’t go straight to the top, you’ll have to face a thousand failures before you see a single win” He also tells them to work hard, observe the works of other artists and support them constantly.
His love for the craft is evident in the way he wants to share it with others. “I believe in Learn-Teach-Share. There’s no use in just learning something, unless you impart it to others” And he has shared his expertise in numerous workshops in the State and in places like Malaysia and Sri Lanka. But he isn’t bothered about where he teaches as long as someone’s learning, he says “Even if you ask me to teach you tomorrow, I’d do it” and I don’t think that he’s joking.