The collection of paintings in this book have been compiled to give the readers a glimpse of life as I have seen it through my eyes.
The colours and every stroke of my brush is an expression of my emotions, outlook and attitude during the arduous yet ever satisfying journey of my life as an artist...
This is a coffee table book comprises of around 150 paintings of legendary actor Sivakumar was launched on 26th October 2020 in Chennai at Lalit Kala Academy.
I was a student of the Government College of Arts and Crafts in Chennai from 1959 to 1965 and those years were the best period of my life. Most of the art work on display here was done during that time and during my travels across the country,” said actor Sivakumar.
The actor believes that a creation is more important than a creator because only a creation can last for a longer period.
Each painting comes with a description explaining when the the work was created and the medium used. While a few paintings were done by Mr. Sivakumar while he worked with Mohan Arts during his student years, others have interesting stories connected to them. A case in example is a sketch of Mumbai done in three hours from Express Towers in 1972, when he visited the city to perform a stage play.
The portrait of Gandhiji was sketched in 1966, while I was acting in the film, Motor Sundaram Pillai", produced and directed by Gemini S.S.Vasan. The sketch of the image alone took twelve hours, followed by another twenty-four hourse of work to re-sketch it with pen and ink. The uniqueness of this portrait lies in how it was drawn without an outline, which would leave the artist no curved referenced of the surface of the skin, yet as you will see in the portrait, every curved lines was captured precisely. It led me to perceive, in all humility, that this would become one of the masterpieces in my repertoire.
Back Cover Image: A self-portrait sketche on August 12, 1963, inadvertently turned out to be one of my masterpieces. It was based on a picture, photographed by Mr.Williams, an ace photographer and cinematographer in Malayalam films. The portrait won the first prize at the Mysore Dasara Exhibition in 1963.
My Journey, as an Artist...
Unbeknownst to me, my entire life became apportioned into three roles - that of a painter, an actor and now a speaker. No doubt, it is Cinema that has brought me the fame, this life of luxury and a wonderful family. In fact, Sivakumar was introducted to people world over because of my forty years' career as an actor in cinema. I remain deeply indebted and grateful to all the producers, film-makers and my co-stars who made that possible by showcasing my acting talent in all their films.
I am, nonetheless, under no illusion, nor avaricious of the need, that my accomplishments in acting will be remembered for time immemorial. The reason being, prior to my time, Mr.Sivaji Ganesan and my contemporary, Mr.Kamal Haasan, have both, through their exceptional acting talents, established themselves as one among the many stalwarts on a global stage. Though I have acted over 170 films in lead characters, my true identity which I unequivocally believe sets me apart from my fellow artists, is that of a skilled painter as well as an eloquent orator.
I, however, remain unaware as to when exactly my interest in art and painting grew. For, even as a young child of five years of age, wheen I could hardly read or write, I found myself drawing pictures of farm animals like the cat, monkey and cow or even a train, all of which remain cherised memories. In eighth grade, when many students were struggling to draw the spinal cord, not only was I able to illustrate the same very easily, but I also drew the diagraom for several other students in that class.
Once, in my sixth grade, when my teacher, Mr.Vijaya Raghava Iyengar, sketched the profile of my face, I was taken aback. Prior to this moment, I had never had a photograph taken so, my excitement knew no bounds. Seeing my teacher sketch the profile of my face on paper made me feel he was verily Brahma - the Creator, Himself!
It was nevertheless, my friend and a teacher at my village Mr.Kumarasamy, who showed me my true path when he advised me to pursue my higher studies at College of Arts and Crafts rather than enrollin in P.S.G.Engineering COllege. Mr.Kumarasamy believed that route would bring me world-recognition as a creative artist and painter. By the time I located the address of the College of Arts and Crafts and headed there to enroll I got wind of the news that the deadline for the entrance test for that year had already passed. So instead, I spent that year sketching with Indian Ink Pens, the faces of a myriad film actors and actresses from cinema magazines, like Pesum Padam and Gundoosi.
Around this time, a distance-education practical course in Arts for upcoming artists, titled, Chitra Vidyalayam was offered by Mr.Sandhanu, a Cartoonist at Kumudam Magazine. It was an opportunity which I took up immediately and joined in the first year of its commencement.
While I received letters from Managers of various artistes in the film industry acknowledging my work of the sketches of the artistes sent to them, it was only Mr.Gemini Ganesan. who personally wrote and sent me a special letter of appreciation along with his photograph.
In the year 1958, I was about to enroll in the Government College of Arts and Crafts but upon my uncles' advice and a recommendation letter from Mr.Sivaji Ganesan, I joined Mohan Arts', a leading banner advertisement company then, acquiring valuable experience in the course of a year.
In those days banner painters were paid less than that of a beggar yet one has to put in tremendous effort and time. I wept tears of blood at the plight of their life. Hence, when I left Mohan Arts and finally enrolled in the Government College of Arts and Crafts, my feelings were akin to that of a dove that leaves its cage for the very first time and spreads its wings in flight in the wide open skies, experiencing great awe and wonderment! The next six years that I spent in that College, with peers, both boys and girls of my age, who were equally talented in the Arts, were undoubtedly the Spring-time of my life!
With no qualms about any future plans, at the break of dawn, with just a paper and brush, like a nomad I wandered the streets of Chennai, Madurai, Trichy, Tanjore, Kanyakumari, Tirupati, Tiruvannamalai, Ajanta-Ellora, Delhi and Agra, drawing sketches, eating only what I was able to get and sleeping on platforms for many days. I adore those sketches and paintings as much as my own children!
The total cost of wandering all over India for seven years and drawing my sketches, was a mere seven thousand and five hundred rupees. Compare that to the present day - the cost of lunch for a family at a five-star hotel alone is more than ten thousand rupees! Though to survive, I ate three simple meals a day, owned only few sets of clothing and slept on the floor much like a sparrow or saint, those years remain precious to me.
In the early hours of the morning around 5.30, I would cycle all the way to Parry's Corner in Chennai, and using my cycle's carrier as an easel board to draw several sketches there...
After reaching the Rajagiri hillock at Gingee Fort and drawing sketches of the Fort, I happened to stay in a foreman's hut. As I was returning from there, a site that remained with me long after was that of frogs lit by the glow emanating from lanterns at mid-night....
When staying in a room rented for just four rupees per day, in Tanjore, I successfully painted the entire Tanjore Temple at a continous stretch of eight hours.
Transfixed by the Kanyakumari's waves that keep emerging from moment to moment captured by my mind's eyes, I painted those waves using water colours.
Before the first light in the morning, after bathing in a nearby pond, I once hiked up the Tiruvannamalai Hills along with Senathipathi, through a birds' view, painted, for over eight hours, all four ornate towers of the Tiruvannamalai Temple.
Yet another prized period was when, ignoring any hunger pangs, at a stretch of nearly ten hours, I passionately drew sketches of Agni Veera Bhadrar and Aghora Veera Bhadrar mandaps situated in the temple porches of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple.
I wonder if those youthful days, wherein, seated on my simple Robin-Hood bicycle, with the confidence of a young man who felt he could make the world spin on his little finger, will ever return!
Although, I will move on one day, my art will remain unto eternity! Like the light of a lamp latent when concealed in a drum, my art remained hidden in the confines of my closet for many years. With the intent that my artistic creations need to indeed be seen by the world, I am delighted at the thought that my children masterminded to publish this book comprising the best of my sketches and paintings.
I am someone, who often shies away from award ceremonies and felicitations, but I view, at my ripe age of seventy five, having this book published by my children - Suriya, Karthi and Brinda to be a great honor in my life-time.
I am deeply grateful to G.Dhananjayan for whole-heartedly committing to and taking on the task of compiling and finishing this book.
I am very thankful to the great artist, Maniam Selven for writing his kind foreword for this book. My sincere thanks are also due to Alliance' Srinivasan, who remains my trusted associate in bringing out all my books in the best quality.
Getting Acquainted with Painting...
My Days at Mohan Arts...
My Days as a Student of Fine Arts...
My Passion for Painting remains Ignited...
Sivakumar, in a Profile.
My first encounter with Sivakumar's artistic talent, which tugged at the art aficionado in me, was through a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi and his self-portrait in an interview segment that appeared in "Bommai" film magazine in 1970.
Requiring the finesse of a scupltor creating his masterpiece, the intensity and spread of Sivakumar's strokes of genius in those portraits, sketched with the Crow-Quill pen and water-proof Indian Ink, gave no opportunity to the artist Sivakumar to make corrections, left me dazed in awe for the very first time at such a vision.
His artistic prowess was often a topic of discussion among students at te Government College of Arts and Crafts, where Sivakumar was nine-years our senior. Following an introduction to Sivakumar by Mr.Akilan Kannan, I had the opportunity to visit the former at this residence in the early 1980's. Every single piece of art work he had ever made during his college days comprising spot paintings, sketches, water colours and oil paintings had been preserved with utmost care, leaving me dumbfounded with admiration. His aesthetics and brilliance come alive like a river running through ones' hands eager to reach the summit. This is evidenced in his water-colour creations seen in the rapid brush strokes that blend flawless colours germinating from his poised confidence and deep-seated interest in art. I now comprehend, how his reverence and love for art and his creations led him to preserve them so lovingly for many decades.
Although Sivakumar's initial journey from his hometown resulted in the disappointment of missing the admissions deadline to enrol in the College of Arts and Crafts, he unwaveringly pursued his interest independently at a banner advertisement company in Chennai that entire year. That indefatigable persistence led him to track and establish contacts with several film industry banner artists notably, Mr.K.Madhavan and Mr.R.Natarajan, thereby creating his own opportunity to learn, acquire and train in the art form dearest to him. It was this experience that lent him an unshkeable grounding in the foundational principles of fine art, prior to his enrolment in the College of ARts and Crafts.
In the following year, when he entered College, wherin Mr.Panicker was the Head of the Department, Sivakumar continued the development of his artistic skills under the aegis of hightly talented artists and teachers like Mr.Santhanaraj, Mr.Anthony Das, Mr.Ram Gopal and Mr.Surendranath. The life studies based model sketches, and water colour, oil as well as acrylic paintings, created by him at that College, reflect his unmatched joie de vivre.
College field trips offered him many occasions to engage in spot painting. His selection of locations and their angles show the measured efforts taken by him for each sketch to ensure precision and authenticity. Sivakumar would not only stand for long hours in one spot to capture art on canvas, but would also make do with the most basic amenities, such as substituting a cycle stand for an easel board, to get the sketches and paintings right. All that mattered to him was the sheer elation he experienced withile learning through focused diligence, which is clearly echoed in all those creations. The heart-filled joy provided by his artwork, created during his college days, continues to give immense pleasure not only to him, but also to all of us, when we see his collection.
Owing to his remarkable works of art, recognition and praise from his College always found him at every corner, in spite of his modest situation and financial struggles. A sense of authority over artwork and artistry that would take ordinary artists over sixty years of experience to attain, was accomplished by Sivakumar in merely six years.
I am yet to discover the existence of any other artist who has dedicated himself so unequivocally, like SIvakumar during his college days in the domain of Arts, with a level of eagerness matched only by a saint pursuing the higher art. While Modern Art was given importance in College during his years of study, his preference remained for the Fine Arts.
My heart believes it is his experience with this art form that facilitated the development of his acting prowess, stage-plays and oratorical skills. The arts, I feel, also helped surface his most humane qualities, of being righteous and benevolent thus finding lasting friendships in life.
The efforts taken by his sons Mr.Surya and Mr.Karthi as well as his entire family to publish this anthology of Sivakumar's best creations in art, as a gift to him and people interested in art on the august occasion of his seveny-fifth birth year, is deeply admirable.
The book takes you through a journey, from his early school days when a tiny seed of interest in the Art form was sown, to his later years when that seed grew into a large resplendent spread like the Banyan tree, unreservedly setting the reader's imagination free to explore each accompanying visual.
Here is a man who pursued the Arts with utmost dedication, mastering the techniques at each stage while marching towards his objective of creating magnum opuses. Quoting a Tamizh proverb, "May the world receive the happiness I received" from Sivakumar's creations.
Wishing Sivakumar glorious years ahead. I desire to see his artistic streak emerge in newer dimensions in the near future, continuing to offer Art that is revered by and inspiring younger generations.
- Maniam Selven.