The sheer joy of expression and his compulsive need to create and experiment marked Ganapati Hegde as an artist right from his childhood. Juggling his art with a job in the IT sector, this National award-winning artist has been engaging with art for over two decades now. His anthropomorphic series of paintings, unique style of playing with size, composition and colour in his nature series and the ability to challenge himself creatively make Ganapati’s artistic journey a delight to follow. Artflute’s Sridevi Padmanabhan caught up with this maverick artist to walk on the wild side of nature and what it means to pursue the creative life.
It’s always interesting to know about how an artist’s background has influenced his art? How did where you grew up and the experiences you’ve had shaped the art you make?
My curiosity and interest in art began right when I was in primary school thanks to a teacher who used to make huge backdrops for plays – a street scene, buildings or a garden. I would go and watch him paint these scenes after school. The first turning point in my life that made me embrace my calling as an artist was when I received my first international award from Kanagawa University, Japan. The artwork I won the award for was based on a memory I had of the river and the bamboo bridge over it on the way to my grandfather’s house.
What were your first steps to working with the medium that you’re working with?
I primarily used to work with oil colours on canvas and my first few exhibitions were also in this medium. I hadn’t experimented with acrylic yet. I then decided to try my hand at creating with acrylic and slowly became comfortable with it, and now it has become the medium I enjoy working with the most. I love how it enables me to showcase tiny details. Not just that, it’s also convenient since it dries quickly compared to oil colours.
How would you define your style?
I wouldn’t say that I have one style that I stick to since I enjoy challenging myself creatively. I began by being known for my Ganesha paintings. Soon after that I felt drawn towards depicting nature and the everyday creatures in our life, especially from coastal Karnataka where I grew up. But then again, nature has inspired so many artists and I wanted to set my art apart. My paintings of nature have a magical realism style and whether it is a frog, honeybee, bird or lizard, I love bringing a human aspect to these animals. For instance, I painted a frog sitting on a chair, with a shawl draped across its shoulders. These unusual elements add a touch of whim and playfulness to the subject of nature. I also use exaggerated details, play with proportions and size and use lush colour to capture the energy and romance of nature and its secret goings-on.
How do you juggle work and making art?
It is very challenging to juggle my job and making art. I plan my time so that I can manage both work and art and am very disciplined about it. I leave work every day at 5:30-6 pm. This is possible because my manager knows about my dedication to art. I typically paint after getting home from work and also wake up early some days to paint. I work on my art on weekends and on holidays too. I spend a minimum of thirty minutes to an hour every day on painting. At my previous job, I even took a six-month sabbatical to work on my art and that time led to a solo exhibition and a few group exhibitions of my work.
Have you ever had a period of being creatively blocked? How did you work through it?
I actually have a different problem. I have so many ideas and visions for art that I want to create while the time that I have to make art is limited. If I had the luxury of being a full-time artist, I could possibly see the ideas through. That’s my plan for the future – to become a full-time artist.
Ganapati Hegde’s works serve up nature with a twist. The paintings depict half-real, half-imagined worlds, layered with fantastical and unexpected elements which take you by surprise. His otherworldly jungle is dotted with nature’s assorted beings, from caterpillars and chameleons to frogs and butterflies. These fantastic creatures take centre stage as he masterfully replicates the magical woods, lush gardens and wild jungles.