What would you call someone who gives up a secured job to follow his passion? A Dreamer. This Hyderabad-based self-taught artist, M Venkata Ramana is all of that and much more. From announcing voluntary retirement at 53 to selling his artwork through Facebook, this former banker’s journey reinforces the statement that age is just a number. Speaking his mind on figurative versus abstract illustrations and the positive influence of social media throughout his artistic career, Mr Ramana joins in to have a conversation with Sruthi Sahini.
“I’ve been quite imaginative ever since I was a teenager. That continues to fuel my creativity even to this day,” he says. However, it was an art competition held during the freshman year of his graduation that unleashed the artistic finesse of the Hyderabad-based self-taught artist. Sharing fond memories of his first achievement as an artist, Mr Ramana recounts, “My friend enrolled my name in the contest without my knowledge. To everyone’s surprise, I bagged the first prize for my live sketching work despite no prior experience.” For the next three years, he won several other competitions and worked as the Secretary of the Arts’ Association of his college. Nonetheless, his passion took a backseat after he secured a job in Andhra Bank.
“But the artist in me didn’t want to give up,” says Mr Ramana with a smile. In 2012, he opted for voluntary retirement. While there were a few people who questioned his decision, the Hyderabad-based self-taught artist shares that his family has always had his back.
With multiple mediums, including acrylics, oil, water, and charcoal, his body of work traverses the beauty of the world we live in. From painting the lifestyle of tribals in Andhra Pradesh to bringing the magnificent sculptures of Halebidu alive with his liner work, the former banker has carved his niche in figurative illustrations. As on today, he has participated in close to 30 group art shows conducted by various organisations in Hyderabad, Guntur, Bangalore, and Goa, over a span of seven years. He was conferred with the Art Legend award and 10 other awards at national level competitions.
When quizzed about what is essential to every piece he creates, he replies that he doesn’t plan his paintings. Rather, he uses intuition to guide him to brush his thoughts. “Tapping into one’s deepest intuitions showcasing new stories, through paint, and then exposing them to the world gives a new level of freedom,” he says.
Addressing the age-old debate on abstract versus figurative art, Mr Ramana notes that at the end of the day, it’s the Illustrator’s personal choice. “I’d call myself really fortunate to get the anatomy of the objects and the people in my paintings right. Moreover, I enjoy working on representative (figurative) art. But then, a few of my peers called my work outdated and advised me to take up abstract form. There was a time when I was affected by their words,” he recalls.
Shedding light on the positive influence of social media in his career, the artist notes that the overwhelming response from his followers on Facebook had given him the much-needed boost during those trying times. “I frequently post my works on my social media accounts. Once, a follower of mine commented that watching my paintings gives him peace of mind. What bigger compliment can an artist ask for!” Mr Ramana exclaims. Adding that he also sold a handful of his paintings to buyers through social media, the artist further says that he is now working towards creating his signature style by giving a contemporary twist to traditional figurative works.
When asked to choose his most-favourite creation, the passionate 61-one-year-old signs off by concluding that the best is yet to come.