The Balancing Act - Kalpesh Kumar

Occasionally you come across a person who says things like, “I used to paint/sing/dance”, people who threw in the towel, because they couldn’t find that precious balance between work and passion. These people fall prey to the sweet venom of nostalgia. Their passion is poisoned by the voice of the past, telling them that their time has come and gone. Speaking to Kalpesh (@kalpesharts), one gets the impression that he’s doing a fine job balancing work and passion.

Until recently Kalpesh has been teaching and practicing art, while working at full time job. He was employed as a business development manager, where he had to sell something that was already there. He tells me that his job was completely unrelated to the art he was making in his spare time. “I didn’t feel like using my ability to make art for a job.” He continues by saying “I paint for fun. I devote the entire week to my job and work at my art over the weekend” For him the true battle wasn’t balancing his job and his art, but to balance fun and commercial in making art.

He started learning art when he was in 9th standard. Then he began teaching what he had learnt to others in his second year of Engineering. At the time he did it to get some more money into his pocket. As of now he has been making art for fourteen years. Kalpesh practices a variety of art forms ranging from pencil sketching to soft pastels. He also does acrylics, oil paintings, charcoal sketches, watercolors and pencil shading. He tells me that he initially focused on painting watercolors, especially landscapes. Then he moved on to acrylics. At his workshops, he tells me that a lot of people are eager to learn the craft of acrylic painting.

At his workshops, Kalpesh does something slightly different. He allows the participants to choose the picture which they want to paint. A practice which is quite uncommon.

“I allow students to choose their own difficulty level. I don’t dissuade them from drawing what they bring, unless they bring something that is beyond their skill level.” He also says that for a workshop he doesn’t teach more than six students. “It allows me to focus on what they are doing, and provide them with individual attention.” As of now He has completed his 295th workshop on acrylic painting at Bangalore.  His workshops take him to all the major metros in the country. But Kalpesh tells me that he prefers the enthusiastic crowds of Chennai and Bangalore. Apart from teaching art and taking up occasional commissions, he also moonlights as an art consultant to a very small clientele. As an art consultant, he advises people on their choice of interior decoration.

Kalpesh often applies things he learnt in his four years of engineering, to his art. Once he undertook an assignment to paint on a set of bamboo blinds. The challenge being the fact that unlike canvas surfaces, paints will resist sticking to wooden surfaces. With his engineer’s eye he studied the chemical composition of oil and acrylic paints and how different they were from fabric paints. Then he and another artist (@artsjourney) painted a sun setting over the calm waters of a sea using a combination of oils and acrylics. The result was nothing short of breathtaking.

On an average he paints around twenty paintings a week through his workshops and along with sixty separate paintings. This number adds to a whooping 1300 paintings a year. “When I started out, I used to do twenty paintings a month. Then I started doing more as my skill kept increasing through practice. I didn’t set any targets but I practiced ceaselessly and got better. “The key” he adds “is getting strong in the fundamentals of the art form that you’re practicing.”

Kalpesh also speaks favorably when it comes to replicating existing paintings. “When you’re trying to replicate an existing painting, try to add your touch. For instance, you can try recreating it in a different medium.” He tells young artists to not get boxed in a particular style or art form; “to survive in the long run you must be innovative and creative” He doesn’t speak too highly of artists who seek to cash in on their abilities early on in their career. “I see people conducting workshops after learning an art form for six months, you can’t learn much from someone who’s only slightly more knowledgeable than the learner.”

“A good learner will always go to an experienced teacher”, he adds. Kalpesh himself only started teaching art to others after nine years of learning. He tells young artists to hone their skills and not get into business too soon in their career. Among his influences he names Leonid Afremov and Bob Ross.  

I ask him if he’s experimented with digital art, and he replies that he prefers to stay in fine arts. “People don’t cross from Fine art to Digital art just like that, besides it’s an entirely different medium” For someone who’s been in the field for over a decade, Kalpesh hasn’t exhibited any on his work much. When I ask him why, he tells me with complete humility that he doesn’t have any exhibit worthy materials. Apart from that he says “people don’t value your art and they tend to act crassly by bargaining for it, which is quite heartbreaking” Kalpesh has often been on the receiving end of this insult which has kept him away from the exhibit circuit. He adds with obvious pride that some of his students have exhibited their works, which have been received favorably. 

Kalpesh tells me that he’s in this for the long run. With the amount of exponentially growing content he keeps producing and with his no-nonsense perspective on art and teaching art to others, it isn’t hard to see why.

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