Bangalore-based self-taught painter Ranji David has painted over 500 paintings since the pandemic began, painting every single day. He continued to paint even when his family and he were infected with COVID. Before the pandemic, he had painted for seven years, made 46 paintings and sold only one. Over the last year, he has sold 28 works to eight people from eight different countries.
We invited Ranji to share his journey as an artist with our readers:
The Early Days of the Pandemic
When the pandemic hit and everything shut down, I told myself I must paint everyday till the pandemic is lifted. Painting everyday is like exercising regularly - in the initial days, I would find it difficult but I would sometimes end up painting three or four paintings a day. Now that I have developed my painting practice, I can easily do one painting a day, stay with it and continue with the themes that emerge from it.
I seem inclined towards the impressionistic style of painting. I enjoy aloneness and exploring the theme of solitude. Having worked in the corporate world for 13 years, and doing theatre as a hobby during that time, I reached a stage where I quit it and began doing theatre full time. So before COVID, I was working for five days a month and the other 25 days painting and sketching, honing my creativity. I was invited to exhibit my paintings when the first wave subsided, but just when I was planned to open the exhibition, I decided to postpone the show. And in two weeks, the cases sky rocketed again.
International Painters Community
During the pandemic, I realised that painters work in isolation. I thought: why not start a community where people can share their challenges with each other and perhaps also learn and inspire each other. So I create a Whatsapp community called International Painters Community (IPC), wherein we have 50 painters from across 15 countries. It's amazing how I found 95% of the painters on Instagram and how we all came together to form this very strong community. We have already organised around four exhibitions in four different countries (India, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Serbia). The community has given us all a sense of belonging and community, which I think goes a long way in eliminating a painter's anxiety of social awkwardness. There is no money involved in any way and hence, the experience has been clean so far.
Lesley Passey and Nikki Thomas
Lesley Passey and Nikki Thomas are two painters whom I came in touch with in this pandemic through Instagram, and we instantly formed a great bond between the three of us, sharing our works regularly and also giving insights and suggestions to each other. We would meet almost every week for a few months, where I would be on Whatsapp in India and they would be in Towcester, UK. We would have daily challenge, wherein one person shares a photograph and all three of us would all paint our interpretations of it. We would do this while listening to the same radio channel and painting together. This whole experience bought us more closer and now, we have formed a group called 'Inspired Artists'.
The Joy of Collaboration Painting everyday meant also drifting with various themes as they come along. I mostly paint using photographs as a starting point. Although I love to go out and paint, the pandemic didn't allow that. One day I got an idea: Why not pick up a poem written by a poet and convert that into a painting? I contacted poets on Instagram, and people were kind enough to share their poems, which I converted into paintings. I had another idea of having an actor read out that poem and have the painting shown, and thus was bornThe Poet-Painter-Actor collaboration. We have already worked with 5 poems and actors this way and the results have been amazing for all the artists involved.
Selling in the Pandemic Since I post all my paintings only on Instagram, I have buyers who have emerged from the platform. When I started to paint in the early days of the pandemic, the idea was not to sell but to enjoy the process of painting. I don't let the aspect of money affect or dictate my paintings. I paint because I enjoy it. Painting has given me much more than anything has: a sense of stability, a space for healing and nurturing in these times of pandemic. In the pandemic, my works got selected in two galleries in the UK, where they are now exhibited in the galleries for viewing and for sales.
I leave you with a quote from Van Gogh, that I took a print of and stuck on my cupboard when I started to paint around seven years ago:
If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Follow Ranji's beautiful work on Instagram.