As part of an ongoing online exhibition at Gallery Threshold, there is an adorable drawing of a cat, snuggled up with its soft toy, dozing off to sleep. Many such sketches and drawings—graphite on paper, watercolours on paper—form a part of ‘Feline Friends’ by Indrapramit Roy. The series has been drawn from works done by the Baroda-based artist over the years, when the cats adopted his family.
“Strangely, the cats came to us. First, one pussycat gives a litter in your backyard. Then you notice little kittens ogling with those large curious eyes from behind shrubs and plants in the garden. The next thing you know is you are feeding them, naming them, petting them, and even missing them when they fail to show up,” he writes in his note. Over the years, Roy has been fascinated by their form, and the fact that “they are very funny and always fun to draw”.
Roy studied printmaking at the Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, and painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU, Baroda. Even as he creates mixed media collages or paints canvases, drawing continues to be part of his process. With a day job teaching painting at the MSU Baroda, Roy is not able to spend long stretches of time in the studio on a daily basis. “However, I make it a point to take time out everyday to sketch and draw,” he says. Everything starts with a sketch and then makes its way into other media. In an interview with Lounge, he talks about the importance of drawing and his relationship with his studio. Edited excerpts:
I don’t paint ideas. I am a firm believer of Californian painter, Wayne Thiebaud’s philosophy that you need something paintable. Drawing comes from that. It has a certain immediacy, which a finished painting can never have. It has a certain spontaneity—it’s a notation that you store in your memory. That is not to say that I don’t use anything else—there are photos, memories, and more.
In 2019, I went to see a cactus garden. The organisers had wanted us to design something for a huge abstract mural. Suddenly, a suggestion came in that we were to insert two realistic portraits of their political masters in the work. I found it quite ironic—why would you want your political masters in the middle of a forest of cacti. That stayed in my memory. I had seen cacti, which grew along the US borders, many years ago. Hence, one thing leads to another. It is all about joining the dots. This body of work, ‘Feline Friends’, was done over a period of time when we were homebound. This was also a kind of enjoyment—to follow the cats around and draw them, especially in moments of repose.
After a long time of working out of rented studios, I now have a studio space on the second floor of my house, which is purpose built. It is a large-ish space. I feel very fortunate, even more so during the covid-19 related lockdowns, when moving between home and studio would have been difficult. I usually stock up on things and there was enough to last me.
I have been a nocturnal being for as long as I can remember. I have a day job teaching, so I work in the studio at night. That suits me just fine. I find it calming and a good time to work from 9.30 pm, continuing till 2 or 3 in the morning. To have a studio built into the quarters works for me best.
It is a very meditative space. It’s not that every time you sit there, you have to invariably be painting. You could be reading, pottering around, writing something, thinking—all that helps you to connect.
They happen every now and then. At times you feel dejected that something is not going well. You keep that aside and come back to work on it after a week, month or even a year. And then suddenly something happens, and it clicks. While working, at times, you lose account of time—that is when you are really in your element. Everyone in the creative field aspires to expand on those moments.