10 questions with the Pothi team: Artist Praveen Yaramilli, who primarily works in the digital format, tells us about his process and life during the pandemic
How did you journey in art start? Tell us about your childhood. You are not a formally trained artist.
My journey in art started in school. Ten students were shortlisted to train under the artist Bangaru Raju, and I was lucky to be one of them. It altered the course of my life.
I had a good 3 years painting and learning under him. I remember every day at school just waiting to go back home and paint, all these paintings were self-initiated endeavours. A lot of questions would arise during the process and I would find solutions for them over the weekend in the art class. I knew early on that I had found something that really engaged and gripped my curiosity and wonder. Art had become that escape where anything was possible. A whole new world opened up!
So, the process of an internal dialogue with my work had started in those days. I am really grateful to my teacher for honing this in me.
But yes, I am not formally trained, as in I don’t have a degree in art. Which I think comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
How is your process like? How do you go about your work?
So, there has to be something that captivates me visually, emotionally, culturally or spiritually in order to put further work in it. There is a need that arises within to express or capture it.
I then go about collecting more material around my subject. I find myself obsessively taking pictures or sketching to use as visual references later. I also try finding more reading material, if there is any. But most times it is pure feeling of that moment that I carry with me into the process.
Once this has happened, I draft my drawing into a composition. This is a process of elimination where I get rid of anything that doesn’t add value to the image and strip it down to its bare minimum, while not compromising on the subject or the aesthetic. Once the shapes are arranged harmoniously and are in place, I go about colouring them. This is where the magic happens, all the lights mid-tones and shadows start infusing life into the work. Once I have arrived at a particular colour palette that works, I broadly stick to it for rest of the works in the series.
So overall, it is an iterative process of trial and error. Of discovery over invention.
Skill vs concept. How do you look at it?
Both are important. It is like sailing in two boats with one leg in each. But development of both skill and concept are rooted in time. They refine themselves over a period with practice, experience and observation. You can’t force it.
What I feel is more important is having fun. Enjoying the process, keeping the wonder and feeling alive. Learning becomes a by-product of that joyful endeavour, where all mistakes are acceptable, in fact there is no right or wrong. I often have to remind this to myself. Achieving any skill or concept then takes a backseat.
How has Covid changed your art and life?
With Covid, travelling or going out has come to a halt, which has been a huge source of stimulation for me.
Although I was fortunate enough to travel for over a month earlier this year to Pondicherry, which was a much-needed break. But now that we are amidst the second lockdown, I don’t know what this will bring. Screen time shoots up some days. Days seem to pass by without much happening. But I must say, I have come to acknowledge my privilege as an individual. So, I really can’t complain. I keep a small sketchbook with me to keep the practice alive in some form.
Does the new trend of online viewing rooms (OVRs) excite you? Are you okay with a completely online way of looking at art since you are a digital artist primarily?
I am not very aware of this new trend. Although Instagram throws ads sometimes. I have seen one online exhibition that a friend had forwarded to me. I didn’t know this was a trend though.
Now, since we are restricted physically, online isn’t a bad option. But nothing can match up to the viewing experience of seeing the original. You get a sense of the scale, the details, the energy put into it etc.
As for me working digitally, I also print my work. Some of my recent prints are sized 24”X36”. The pleasure of looking at these prints at scale is very different from viewing them digitally. Although the beauty and integrity of a work can still be felt digitally. I still awed when I look at old paintings online.
Do you think digital artists have it easier? Or do you think there is too much digital clutter?
Certainly, yes… and no also. Let me explain. It is much easier to undo and redo on the computer. This allows for countless trial and error experiments in the process, which I feel is instrumental in creating good work personally.
But you have to have the foundations and practice in place at the same time. If this isn’t there, then you will be constrained by what the tool has to offer. On the other hand, if your foundations are strong, you mould the tools to suit your purpose and not the other way round. But also with so many tools at disposal, it has become very easy for a lot more people to express themselves. In whatever form, which is nice.
What are you working on now?
I had created the first work inspired by my visit to Auroville earlier this year. But I haven’t put more work in the series since then. I should maybe.
Currently though, I am only sketching and painting in my book. I also finished a painting that I had started last year. But that’s about it.
Are you open to collaborations?
Depends really. If I am collaborating with people have skill sets that I don’t, then definitely yes. Because it teaches something new which can be enriching. But it is nice to work individually by myself too. I feel my personal work is a journey to be taken alone.
Is your work informed by other forms of art like music as writing? If yes, do you have an example?
I don’t think they inform my work directly. Other forms of art inform my understanding of the world, but I do not derive anything consciously from them into my work.
What does your day at the studio look like?
As much as I would like to have one, I don’t have a studio presently. I work on a small centre table. If I am painting, I mostly do so in the day.
As for having a routine, I do not subscribe to having one. Most often because I can’t keep up with it or I am bored with predictability. On the other hand, living organically, I do see patterns emerge that inform me about who I am, which is interesting. But as an artist, the only discipline I keep is to carry my sketchbook everywhere I go.