Published: 29th May 2019
Bengaluru artist Varun Rao uses engineering techniques to make his pop culture portraits stand out. Here's how
This mechanical engineer is a self-taught artist and he uses the techniques of engineering to draw portraits — how cool is that?
Artists are known to be fussy when it comes to the quality of their work, settling for nothing less than perfection. Varun Rao is one such artist who is exceptional at portraits and does not give up until he gets those perfect lines. Now, like most kids, Varun didn't show any interest in becoming a professional artist growing up. In fact, he was more into cars and bikes. But serendipitously, his love for automobiles is what led him to pick up a paintbrush and palette. "I had a liking for automobiles so much so that I had filled three notebooks with paintings of cars and bikes. When I was in class X, my interest evolved into drawing portraits of cricket stars and Bollywood actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Anil Kumble. And today, I'm here drawing a wider range of portraits in my style," says Varun, originally from Mangaluru.
After graduating from school, Varun aspired to pursue arts from Sir JJ School of Arts in Mumbai, but he was unable to write the entrance exam and failed to get in. So, Varun had to set his aspirations aside and went on to study Mechanical Engineering. And like with most college students, he took a break from his passion and took his studies seriously. "I stopped painting for a few years and even after I got a job, I did not feel like getting back to it. But my wife motivated me to take my craft seriously and continue it after office hours. So in 2013, I bought a white canvas, brushes and colours. From then on, painting has been an inseparable part of my life. Rather, this art has won me a lot of recognition," he says.
A tribute: Varun was impressed by Ranveer Singh's acting in Bajirao and that inspired him to paint
Today, Varun is a self-taught artist and staying true to his Mechanical Engineering core, he employs the same techniques in drawing when it comes to measuring a line or holding a pencil. He uses his own judgement to bring out the best in his portraits. Initially, he painted only black and white portraits, but when he became confident of painting with colours, he moved on to Polychromos oil-based colour pencils. Varun says, "I love drawing with these pencils as each colour blends really well. This is how I can render some realistic colour portraits. One of my favourite paintings is of Ranveer Singh from when he enacted as Bajirao in a Bollywood movie. Anyone can feel those emotions that are displayed in his eyes. It took me 16 days to complete the painting and I used yellow ochre, brown and yellow, and blended them to give a rich look. Recently, one of my relatives bought the painting to hang in their home. The painting would get a lot of likes whenever I displayed it in exhibitions."
One of the most unique paintings done by Varun includes one of his wife holding a candle. He painted it similar to S L Haldankar's painting Glow of Hope, famously known as 'Lady with a Lamp'. He says, "I did a lot of experiments for this particular painting. My wife stood with a candle for almost two hours and posed in different angles for a photo. We clicked them with different lighting effects. I am attracted to the genre of light and darkness. I finally finished in two days and played a lot with colours. According to me, light is a symbol of hope and life. That's what I see in this painting."
Hall mark: Varun's painting of his wife where he has displayed light and dark genre
When asked why he chose to specialise in portraits, he replies, "Portraits have a different effect as we are drawing real-life characters. People associate with them easily. Among all the art I have created, I've painted portraits of Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister and another one was a painting of Buddha. That one had many layers of oil paint and I was able to capture that symbol of peace in this painting. Recently, a friend of mine bought it to hang at the entrance of his newly built house."
For GOT fans: Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister is one of the unique paintings by Varun Rao
Despite his steady maturation in the art of portraits, his craze for cars has not diminished completely. Currently, he is in the process of painting a series of 90s cars, like the Fiat, Ambassador and Contessa. This artist-cum-engineer has exhibited his paintings in four different places so far. This month's exhibition at Dyu Art Cafe in Koramangala has brought him several audiences. "Whenever I visit the cafe, I sit in a corner to observe the people who come to look at my paintings. Recently, I saw a young guy imitating the portraits and taking selfies. Isn't that cool? I felt happy about the responses I received. Next month, I am planning to put up another exhibition at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. This will have paintings related only to nature and sceneries. For this, I have asked my friends to provide photographs clicked by them during trips. I will paint the same on my canvas," he concludes.