The common man's artist earns his place

Different Strokes

What is Delhi’s equivalent of Paris’ Place du Tertre? The famous artists’ square in Montmartre where streets stay abuzz with sketch artistes, caricaturists and painters dotting the space, setting up easels all around its nooks and crannies and furiously propagating their art.

They take pride in the fact that this square was the Mecca of modern art as many a renowned artist, such as Pablo Picasso lived as penniless painters in its vicinity in the early 20th century.

We may not be able to spot one such single location in the Capital but Delhi is always high on celebrating a series of annual art fests around the City. Detouring from that juncture, Metrolife paints the picture of an artist whose pencil is his most prized possession as he sits poised at Dilli Haat, waiting to etch the contours of the unfamiliar faces on his canvas.

“Woh neecheywale eyebrow ko thoda lamba kardijiye,” instructs a woman as Varinder Kumar sketches the portrait of her son in the dim light of a bulb. Varinder doesn’t even get a tad annoyed as he says, “Mujhe koi pareshani nahi hoti. I just don’t sketch a face, I put in my heart and soul into my art. I would only want it to look better.”

Varinder’s stall is a modest corner displaying sketches of Barack Obama and Priyanka Chopra in the same series. Looks like he has put his list of ‘who’s who’ of the world in one place. A single sketch costs a small amount of Rs 300. But how many does he get to sketch in a day?

“It takes around 45 minutes to make one portrait. When you get lucky, people keep flowing in. On a slow day, I hardly get to sketch even one portrait,” says the artist whose eyes do not waiver from his subject as he sketches for about an hour at a stretch.

The sketching corner doesn’t just belong to Varinder as it is rotated between a group of six artists – each one gets only a 15-day period to take over the stall.

“It gets pricey to hold up a stall in any other touristy place in the City. You have to pay for so many licences. Not at all sustainable,” he rues adding, “I go back to my town to work there when my job here
gets over.”

Hailing from a village, Charuni Jattan, situated 12 km away from Kurukshetra, the artist harbours one dream, “I want to put up a small exhibition in the Capital one day. I am working on it. I have painted a series of landscapes for the exhibition.” The irony is, passers-by catch a glimpse of his work day in and day out at the Dilli Haat, but that doesn’t count as an exhibition at all!

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