Rangoli artist G. David’s tryst with colours and designs

G. David’s rangoli art is a crowd puller at weddings. His rangoli portraits of bride and groom adorn the entrance of marriage halls. Most of them are rich in colour, intricate and exquisite.

Squatting on the floor, he silently goes about his work for hours together. His art is not like what many perceive it to be. “This is not just about filling kolams with colours. There are no dots here. It is painting with colour powders,” says David.

He does not use any sophisticated gadgets. The floor is his canvas and fingers are his brush. He only uses tea strainers to evenly spread the powder on the paintings. “It is important. You may put in lot of hard work but spectators will end up commenting the art is beautiful because of the use of gadget. That is why I desist from using them,” he says.

It all started during his seventh standard vacation, when David’s brother took him to a sign board artist to make him learn the use of colours. A caricature specialist himself, his brother taught him the nuances of the art like how to mix colours. Till he was in school, David wanted to become a painter as he was good in pencil drawing, shading, collage, water colour and oil painting. An intra-department competition at Madura College where he pursued graduation, however, altered his career plan. ‘Pulari’ was a good platform for aspiring youngsters like us. Each person was allowed to compete in five contests and I enrolled in four as the fifth one was Rangoli. My Tamil master Govindan was aware of my skills and he included my name in rangoli as well. I was not familiar with kolams, so I drew a portrait and filled it with colours and walked away with the first prize,” he says. From then on there was no looking back from rangoli powders.

He designed posters and became a regular at college exhibitions. It is not easy to draw with colour powders as there are limitations, says David. “The place should be dust, wind and insect-free otherwise your effort goes waste. I don’t touch the ground while drawing because sometimes impression of your strokes are very glaring,” he says.

It takes 10 to 12 hours to complete a work of 8 x 4 feet. “Some people do not like their portraits to be made on the floor and instead give photographs of beautiful flowers or sceneries. The work is same, but drawing natural sceneries is comparatively easier than portraits,” he says.

David uses graph method to enlarge the photograph of the subject to be painted. “There is also lantern method which is basically projecting the image using a light source on the wall and then reproducing it on the floor. But sometimes it ends up in failure. That is why I use only graph method, which is clinical. You cannot achieve perfection with free hand drawing,” he says.

He uses water colour painting technique of starting from light colour and moves on to dark colour for shades. He mixes colours on his own and doesn’t depend on ready made colours. David first moulds the face and then moves on to other parts also he starts from the right side as he is a right-hander. Backdrop colouring is the final stage. “The portraits are only for display and cannot be disturbed and can remain for a month if properly preserved,” he says.

David is also adept in drawing similar portraits on water. “It is far more challenging. I first spray chalk or talcum powder on water and it forms the base and then I finish my drawing. I take extreme care while drawing as the place should be insect-free,” he says.

He has travelled across the country and done more than 1,000 rangolis in the last 27 years. Known for his colour combinations and detailing, David also has the unique gift of reproducing what he sees without much deviation. He now plans to move on to sand art. “I have done couple of works but am yet to master

more recommended stories