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English - June 4, 2021

Watercolor painting to understand the world. With Tanay Kumar.

Hello everyone and welcome to the third episode of “I’m Luna Dolph – Life & Reality”. I am Luna and I thank you for being here with me. In the last episode we talked about conscience with a young psychologist. Today I decided to tackle a new theme: watercolor painting, or “aquarelle“. To do this, I contacted an extraordinary painter, passionate about the technique of watercolor painting, Tanay Kumar.

Before to read… You can listen!

If not… Continue to reading!

Tanay is a painter from East India who will tell us his story. We will discover together how his passion for painting was born. He will tell us about some of the most important art forms, which are part of the Indian tradition. Thanks to his words, we will learn how important communication and sharing are. Finally, he will provide us with important advice related to his artistic world of watercolor painting.

I am really excited to be able to talk to such an artist! Let’s get started!

Tanay Kumar’s growth path

Me: Hi Tanay, it’s a pleasure to meet you! I’m really happy to be able to talk to you.

T: Hi Luna, it’s a pleasure for me to meet you too. It was a wonderful surprise to hear that you discovered my work on social media. It was a gratification for me.

Tanay Kumar, an artist from East India

T: I would like to give you a brief background of who I am. My name is Tanay, I think you already said that. I come from a small town called Jamshedpur. It is the city of steel for India, located in its easternmost part. I think my growing years can be described as rather fuzzy. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was doing.

During my school days I’ve been focused on finding a career that could help me earn some money. It was the ambition of ninety percent of the people I grew up with.

Architecture and design as the beginning of the creative path

T: Fortunately, I became passionate about architecture, and I believe that was the beginning of my creative journey. I would say it gave me a vision of what creation was. And what it really meant to create something starting from an empty blackboard and then make it grow. These were some of the first discoveries I made in architecture, after attending a master’s in “communication design”.

In the race to make my life truly worth living, I think I’ve done some important business flow things in the design industry.

Currently, I am still managing one of the greatest experiences with a company in India called “Fractal Ink”. This experience of architecture and design helped me, in some way, to express myself on the canvas, through watercolor painting.

When I see some of my work, I think there is a strong reflection of what I grew up with. Even what I saw around or what I actually aspire to do on the rest of my journey.

The different faces of watercolor painting

Me: Tanay, first of all thank you for your introduction. It is important to make yourself known and, above all, to make your story and emotions known.

I understand your words very well, I too am very fascinated by painting. You know, fell in love with it after discovering the world around you.

I had never seen such beauty, and I immediately felt the need to understand. Even to be able to reproduce the things I saw.

I’m curious to know what watercolor painting means to you. But I’m even interested in the way you approached to this passion.

T: Great question, Luna. I think it is important to answer, even if the question can be a bit ambiguous. In fact most of the time it is difficult to explain why certain people are a certain way. It is difficult to really define them in a few words.

Watercolor painting as a race to success

T: I think that for me the passion for painting came in two ways. One was, of course, when I entered the rat race to fulfill my career. In those moments we forget that we are ourselves. In reality, you are competing, trying to reach the numbers and raise your salaries.

Somewhere along the line, creation takes a back seat, and that’s exactly what I’ve experienced. I graduated in architecture, I studied design and I did it for a reason. I think that reason took a back seat somewhere, at some point.

Watercolor painting as an experiment

T: I would not say, however, that I immediately started painting for work. I think, initially, painting was more of a relief for me. When I started, I was doing a charcoal painting. At first I was in London, where I then stayed for five years. There I used quite a lot of charcoals. But, when I started my creative journey again, I just wanted to experiment with things. I never thought I’d come to watercolor painting. So, part of my journey actually helped me discover myself.

Watercolor painting as a documentation of reality

T: The second way I developed the passion for painting, was when I started documenting things. If you look at my work, you will mostly find portraits. Architecture, many street scenes or types of scenes that take place around me. I don’t spend much time painting abstract things.

This, I think, is a reflection of what I have actually experienced or what I feel I want to represent. When I visit a place or when I walk on the street, that moment becomes important to me. The movement that I am capturing on the canvas, is a reflection of many things. Not only the shape of a building, but also the bus passing by on the street; the scenes that are actually happening around me; people who are buying something; other people who are arguing; the preparation of the food in some corner of the street.

All of this, actually becomes interesting. Being able to capture that moment, in the whole scheme of things, I think is the most important thing for me. So, most of my work, actually documents the context around me. I can capture a point in the story, on a white sheet, on a canvas.

This actually gives me a lot of gratification. I think I can carry on with my passion for watercolor painting because there are hundreds and thousands of scenarios happening around me.

Mundane things become special things

T: I identify the most mundane things as special things and so, I make them happen on my canvas as well. This is what I feel every day, when I sit in front of a canvas. This, for me, is the motivation that drives me to do any job.

This is what I feel. I could be wrong because, as I said, it is difficult to put into words what painting represents to me.

Paint to understand the world

Me: I really appreciate your words and sincerity, Tanay.

Personally, I look at painting as a mean to get closer to your world. To get in touch with it and to be able to study it more closely. I was able to learn the difference between the colors, the different shades and the different subjects to recreate.

But, as I try to get closer to your world, I have noticed that many people try to escape from it instead. This is how I understood that social media are used as a means to escape. In fact, we are not always satisfied with what we have around us and, often, we look elsewhere.

I decided to approach painting to escape from my universe. A dark, silent and lonely place. I want to get closer to yours: brighter, more sparkling and full of surprises.

I like to see in the paintings what I am studying, what I would like to know, the places I would like to visit. Also the things that I have already seen and that I want to keep well impressed in my mind.

Painting to escape or to connect better to the real world?

Me: For you, paint is a way to better connect to the world around you, or is it a way to escape?

T: I think, Luna, you put me in a difficult position with this question!

Indeed, it’s hard to explain if I paint to connect better or if I do it to escape from here. Personally, I think I’m running away from a place to connect to another place. I would say that I spoke from a certain way to live, to connect to another way of life.

Paint makes me happy, okay? When I have a brush, the colors and the canvas in front of me, I’m happy.

And there is a bit of mystery about what will come out and therefore on the result. Will I really create something today? Or probably, I will be disgusted? That ambiguity is really the biggest experience. Personally, I’m connecting to the lost part of me.

Sometimes, I go out and paint, the “Plein Air” specifically. I try to have a communication with the people who are around. I think this leads value to what I am depicting. This is actually a connection and not a sort of escape.

Sometimes, I thought about painting as a means to express myself. As a moment when I feel the need to stay with myself and create something. In those moments, I don’t want interference. In fact I don’t want people to approach me and talk to me, or do too many questions.

Watercolor painting as an expansion of one’s world

T: But, over time, I realized a thing. The story you have to tell through your paintings requires you to be more connected. If you are not connected with the surrounding context, your painting is just a photograph. You could also click and take a photograph but, when you paint, you actually imprint what you feel.

A zoom on the details

Me: Some of your paintings are real zooms on details of a larger context. I would like you to explain to me how you choose your subjects. But even what you are passionate about when you paint. I’m curious to find out if you portray what you see with your eyes, therefore what surrounds you. Or you portray what you would like to see, and therefore an ideal world.

T: In a sense it is a representation. It is a representation that captures the moment in true light. But personally, I improvise. In fact I improvise many of my scenarios, to bring aspects that I would like to see on my canvas.

It is not always a situation that I experience firsthand. I don’t always go to a place and get all the inspiration from the elements that make it up.

Painting through memory and experience

T: Sometimes I act with memory, sometimes with experience. Sometimes, simply getting to know people and talking to them. You can’t just add elements to the whole scenario or to the scene you are painting. Personally, when I have a white, static piece of paper, I really try to use it to the fullest. I try to represent my impression, but also to use my technical improvisation. Sometimes I use my memory to supplement what I am showing.

Many times, I amplify things about my paintings. So I can mute some parts of it and better know what I want to show as a story. In fact, my painting is a combination.

Me: I find your way of seeing reality and your way of representing it truly fascinating. What I think is incredible, is the possibility of being able to talk to a person. Then, learn her history and represent It on a canvas. But not just a person, also an object, an animal, a feeling.

The protagonists of the canvas

T: Let’s talk about the subjects of my paintings. They are mainly chosen by the way they impact me. Many times, I take ordinary things, and I try to make the ordinary extraordinary. It is about this, I am collecting ordinary subjects. This can be a street corner or some kind of strange object. Many times, I have painted steps leading down from a particular place. At other times, I have seen a lamppost or a swimming pool with many threads running around it.

I think that, at times, these also become an object of art and intrigue. We have to look back at how an object was created. Why a ladder was built or why that pole is there? And why there are so many threads running around it?

Each object tells a story

T: There are so many stories that these objects actually tell. Things don’t happen in a moment. It’s not like someone came yesterday and pulled the strings. Everything is planned very carefully.

Personally, I think I am attracted to things that have been created over a certain period of time. Which have actually changed shape and size over time. I like to document things, as I said, ordinary. Try to understand how I can make the ordinary seem extraordinary.

This is my commitment when I choose, when I propose types of subjects for my paintings.

Me: It’s really amazing that, looking around you, things talk to you. And it’s amazing that you are able to represent them and give them a life of their own. From what I have seen in your world, ordinary, mundane and routine things are actually already extraordinary. Because everyone experiences them in a completely different way and manages to make them special.

Painting in India through the ages

Me: Tanay, I would like to know more about your culture. You are of Indian nationality, right?

T: Yes, I come from India. I am an Indian, I have traveled to some parts of the world. I would like to travel and document things. But I feel I belong very much to India as a country.

Me: Interesting, as you will have understood, I am a very curious girl. In fact, I like to discover different cultures and customs. I would like to ask you how painting, and therefore art, is viewed in India? Are there traditions, cults, related to art?

The two aspects of art in India

T: So, when it comes to India, I think we have to divide it into two parts.

On the one hand, India has always been culturally very very strong. Firstly in the forms of art, then in the type of religions, and finally in the type of different people it hosts. On the other hand, India was, and is now, integrated into the whole scheme of things around the world.

Obviously, we are a nation that is currently trying to restore order. With all the problems related to Ghana and all kinds of challenges we face on a daily basis. Without doubt, this pandemic has taken many things away from us. It has also made us much more cautious about how we behave. Let’s leave this topic aside.

Tradition and innovation meet

T: India has a rich cultural and artistic background. It will be difficult for me to document or really remember everything. Some of the things that come to mind by a typical pictorial world are:

  • Madhubani painting, which is a popular art from the eastern part of India.
  • The paintings “Warli”, which are painting made with rice flour. According to this tradition, water blends with rice flour and then paints its home. Looking at the various villages in which they use this technique, I am convinced that it is beautiful artistic forms. They have a complete style and a unique narrative capacity over time. It is a historic thread, very similar to the rock paintings.
  • Miniature paintings, which were quite widespread in Rajasthan. You can get to know many stories represented through miniature paintings.
  • The style of Indian folk painting called “Gond”, which represents a gold cone. It came from a tribe of Madhya Pradesh which is one of the states of India. It is very bold in its appearance. This style is characterized by natural materials that are used to create the art object. It can be spices, mud, cow dung. It results in a very bold representation of the elements that surround us.
  • The “kalamkari”, which in a modern world is called “pen and ink”. In fact, “kalam” means pen and “kari” represents the instrument through which the pen can be used.

Road to progress

T: All of these art forms are native to India, and I think they are still being used in some parts.

Overall though, I believe India needs to move to the next level in looking at art. But also in promoting and recognizing art. Somehow, it has to make sure that there is someone to carry it on. I believe he is struggling with many other problems right now. But I think that, somewhere, there are small communities that need to carry on the art. Even if with difficulty, it must be at the center of the scene.

After all, art is not just a collection of truly beautiful paintings. It is a record of one’s culture, history, people, and the things that surround us. So, I believe a little focus really needs to be brought towards it.

There are certainly other traditions. I’m sure I forgot about hundreds of them. But, there are some things I know and have actually witnessed.

The importance of visiting places of art

Me: I would very much like to know if there is a place, a museum, that has helped to increase your passion. I am sure it is important to attend art events to learn the discipline better, what do you think?

T: I can say one thing to people who want to get closer to this world. I want to explain what helped me grow my passion. To take my skill to a level where I am able to truly enjoy it.

I give an example. By the time you are learning any musical instrument, most of the time, you are unable to produce music. You can only produce something cacophonous in the moment of learning. This is very similar to what happens in art. When you approach any form of art, through which you want to learn to express yourself, you will initially produce something cacophonous and you will not like it.

But perseverance is important. I believe I learned it not only in my art, but also during my journey as an artist, as a designer, as an architect.

Cultivate the passion

T: Everyone’s abilities should be cultivated, they are not innate. It is true, you can have the ability to observe things. But, the ability to be able to translate what you see, in something that then like the people around you, is difficult. You need to learn and observe many things that are part of that field.

Personally, I would recommend to every artist and who is learning, to find a muse or more muses. Things that can inspire and make them look at the things They has around. Try to carry your capabilities to a level in which you are confident with the tools. In which means are aid to express what you want to express.

The vehicle as a main tool

T: People must not be closed to a world where they simply knows how to use the tools.There is no fun in doing this. The fun comes in the moment you start putting your soul into the art form. And, this can only come when there is a lot of practice, and you feel comfortable with the means.

It’s as simple as riding a bicycle. We learn to ride the bicycle until it is innate in ourselves. Then, we can start enjoying this new discovery and all that learning entails.

Capacity and passion, the right mix

T: I believe that, being able to create art forms starts with skill, mixed with passion. You have to find a way to understand and express your passion. I cannot do it for anyone and I believe that no one can do it for the person concerned.

In the end, whatever you decide to do, you must always be honest about your choice. But also put some hard work into it, don’t neglect even one day. And when a person is ready, then he will feel it.

For me, visiting people, visiting museums, looking at paintings, having a lot of information circulating around me, is important.

Try to get involved and visit museums, art galleries, learn what you have around you. I think it’s very rewarding and really really enlightening. As artists, you should never confine yourself to yourself but step outside. Meeting people and being discovered by people like Luna. You are probably learning a lot from what I am saying.

Me: You’re absolutely right, Tanay. I am discovering so many things thanks to your words. My curiosity, however, is great.

The ideal space of an artist

Can we be more specific and know how to practice your passion? Where do you take inspiration to create your paintings? Do you need silence around you, or do you prefer music? Do you close yourself in a room with soft light? Maybe, do you prefer the windows open from which to get the rays of the sun?

T: So, I have a studio, it’s behind me, here is where I really paint, when I’m sitting. It’s not an isolated place. It is not placed in my house, it is very at the center of my city.

Find inspiration in the company of people

T: I’d like to talk to people even when I paint. But when, at a time, I am conceptualizing, I think I need some peace. Even when I make plein air, I look for inspiration. Many times I went to a very busy street or in a crowded market do a Plein Air.

Sometimes, I find a corner on which nobody really focuses. I sit there and try to conceptualize or try to document what I’m seeing, thanks to a small sketch. I often look for a bit of isolation during my conceptualization phase, and I think that I like it.

Many times, instead, I went to places where there are street children. They go down and sit next to me. They often try to give me ideas, “Hey, we do this too,” “you show me this here in your painting”. I sometimes, only for the fun of those people, include them in my paintings. So I talk to them. They are very enthusiastic to see how slowly a piece of white paper changes to represent the scene.

The importance of sharing

T: This is rewarding. In reality it is an appreciation of what I am doing. I’m not very different from other people, I really like good appreciation. I think I’m not a lonely.

I’m not a lonely when it comes to painting. Actually, I’m happy to share things and I’m happy to really show what I’m trying to do. Unless it’s a bad time. In the worst moments, anyone would like to stay away from me.

Me: You know Tanay, I spent a lot of time alone and, now, I’m discovering the pleasure of being together. Now, I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share a moment of your life with someone, even with a stranger.

I believe everyone can learn something, even with a simple look.

Help people through watercolor painting

Me: But returning to you, I visited your site and I read something very interesting, related to the sale of your works. Works with an association that deals with autistic children. I find it a truly incredible initiative, I also see that you use a lot to help people.

T: Yes, I like to get closer to the people who are interested in art. There are many things I can teach, many things I can convey as an artist who started from nothing.

For example, people make me many questions. Many ask me how my tools and my techniques are selected, if it is watercolor painting, if it is acrylics, if it is oil.

The advice of an artist

T: I always explain that you need to analyze two aspects. First point, try every tool, and you will find out, so, that it will be the right half to choose the person and not the opposite. This will happen when the tool will be working with you. I believe that the tool will choose you.

I organize many workshops, including programmed for individual sessions, so for one day only. In these moments, I speak with many online people, to help them clarify some things that are going through. And I often do many videos on YouTube, to explain some things. But what I think I have learned more, is that I have the responsibility to spread my knowledge under the right light.

Interiority of art

T: I often stop inside my trip. In some moments, we can say “mystics”, I need to think about how to choose the right pencil, the right sheet or color, how to start a composition. I often need to find a clarification and to understand all these things. And, I believe that every artist needs to continue to do it.

You must look for a right line, especially when you are in front of people. It helps me think about myself, it helps me rationally think about what I’m doing. So, something that helps me a lot, is to think about my art, on my techniques and what I do in front of a canvas.

I am very happy to have the chance to collaborate, do workshops and meet new people during my trip within this art.

Me: I am happy to be able to spread your message through my podcast. I hope people realize that it is a nice gesture and that, through your passion, you are not just creating real works of art, but you are also helping people.

Watercolor painting workshop

Me: I noticed that you are a very active artist, organize workshops and courses! One of the last, if I’m not mistaken, it was dedicated to those who wanted to learn to paint landscapes.

I’d like to deepen the topic with you. In fact, if you could explain or give some advice to our listeners, it would be great!

T: The workshops are typically organized by institutions. In recent times, I also collaborated to help NGOs or non-governmental or non-profit organizations, to raise funds for a good cause. I think it’s a truly unique thing to think you’re helping, somehow, your community.

The commitments of an artist

T: I organize workshops, but not many. I think there was a time, when I was still trying to find myself. In that period, I was sure to be good enough to be able to offer someone’s seminar, and then teach what I learned.

So, I don’t do many workshops, but I did someone. I am very happy to go out there. I can’t be part of many workshops, because I really want to be part of art exhibitions where I can express what I think about it.

I’m open to this and I’m sure, if there’ll be the opportunity, you will often see me around this kind of argument.

Me: From what I listened, you are a very busy man! I was lucky to find some time to chat with you!

Future projects

Me: Mr Kumar, do you have new projects scheduled?

T: Projects? No, there are no plans planned but, what I want to do is spend the rest of my life traveling. I don’t know what the rest of life is meanwhy right now for me. It could be in a year, in ten years or in fifty years.

Travel, Knowing the world and paint it

T: For the rest of my life, what I want to do is to dedicate myself to documenting my journey with my paintings. And I want to go deep. In places where things have not been explored, or that many people have not seen.

It could be an isolated village or could be a hidden place in the world. I want to travel and document this. My project is to go out with my coffee table books.

A trip together

T: I would like to allow others to do this trip with me, using my paintings as a reflection of what I’m going through. This is what I like at the moment. I wait for the moment we will be able to move freely around the world without restrictions.

Me: Tanay, I admire your projects a lot, I didn’t expect such a strong answer. Convinced of what you want to do and I really hope you can complete this great project.

I also hope that we can soon come back to travel, to meet, to be able to spend time together, which now seems so far away.

Tanay Kumar, the altruistic artist

Me: Thank you for the time you have dedicated to me and for the beautiful words you told me. I want to remember once again that, with your art, not only you documents the reality of the world, but also do good actions.

I am really happy to be able to share all this on my podcast, you are a person I admire a lot. Thank you for the chat!

T: Thanks Luna, it was nice to talk to you. As I have always said, it is important to talk about art with someone else. Many of your questions actually clarify things in my mind, what I’m doing, because and when to do it.

So thank you very much, it was a pleasure to talk to you.

Rate and comment my podcast

Me: Thanks also to those who listened to the third episode of “I’m Luna Dolph”. I learned a lot thanks to this chat with Tanay Kumar, and I hope to have helped you to better understand the world we have talked about.

Leave me a good review on my web channels, to encourage me to continue this journey. Subscribe to my podcast and Instagram, and contact me on lunadolph.com for advice, criticism or just to get to know me. See you next Friday for a new episode! And don’t forget: experience and enjoy the real world!