Ganesh Panda’s paintings are sensitive, evocative imaginings of every human emotion. His skill with the palette knife makes every artwork he creates a showcase of his deft strokes and masterful use of colour. A painter par excellence, his distinct and unconventional style has won him fans from the world over. Read on to know more about his journey from being an art director in an ad agency to becoming a famous artist.
It all started with a painting of Shastriji
I grew up in a small village in Orissa. My dad was a teacher in the same school that I studied in and he wanted to use a portrait of Lal Bahadur Shastri for a lesson in class and had no idea who could paint one for him. I grabbed the opportunity and tried my hand at it. It turned out very well and my proud father bragged to many people about it. The inspector of the school was also surprised by how good it was and told me that I would be a great artist one day. That statement has been something that has stuck with me for years and it also gave me the courage to choose the path of becoming an artist.
My use of the palette knife happened by chance
I was studying art at the Government College of Art and Craft in Khalikot, Orissa and in 1982, during my final year of studies, I heard about a national art contest organized by the All India Drawing Teachers Association. I wanted to participate in the student category but didn’t have any art materials, except a palette knife. One of my professors gave me a few colors and other materials. I made a painting using the palette knife, and to my surprise, I actually won. This led to a lot of press coverage in newspapers and it was a big moment for me, which also drew me closer to the palette knife as a tool of painting.
The metaphor of the palette knife
Growing up wasn’t an easy journey for me and life seemed to be a struggle since the beginning. It is this struggle and uncertainty that you can sense in my paintings too. I never liked painting with a brush because the strokes from a brush seem too clean and smooth. The palette knife gave me a way to convey that every struggle when faced can create something beautiful. The lines in my paintings are never clean and perfect because life isn’t clean and perfect either. The inherent beauty in imperfections is what I try and depict in my paintings.
Being an artist is a big risk in itself.
I took the risk of becoming an artist instead of getting a steady job with a steady income. I had a job at a very popular advertising agency and the biggest risk of my life was leaving that job to move to Mumbai in 1982 right after my graduation. I didn’t know a single person in the city, but I had a strong feeling that if I wanted success as an artist then Mumbai is where I had to be. Leaving my home and family back in Orissa, the struggles sometimes seemed unending but looking back it was one of the best things that have happened to me.
My very first art exhibition
My very first art exhibition was at DCB Art Gallery, Andheri, Mumbai. I had been working as a visualizer and art director in various ad agencies and I also had my own advertising agency before that. A visitor from Kenya was at the gallery and he bought six of my paintings all at once. This instantly made me feel like I had crossed a threshold and was now a serious professional artist. The feeling of getting recognized for my hard work was overwhelming.
Creativity can be an elusive thing
Creativity can be an elusive thing so creative blocks are normal for an artist. I am going through one now as well. When I go through a phase like this, I read books, take long walks in the city, and draw inspiration from nature. Another thing I do is to place a blank canvas on the easel so that I am constantly reminded of what I have to do. This has helped many times.
The life of an artist is uncertain
The life of an artist is uncertain and the most challenging aspect is survival. Society doesn’t accord an artist the kind of respect that other professionals may receive. Through it all, I have never ever stopped painting. People may say many discouraging things to you when you are starting out, but you have got to be strong. Speaking from experience, time and patience will get you through any difficulties. An artist should never stop creating art, no matter what the circumstances. The responsibility of an artist is to create new art that inspires others as well.