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Prachi - A Portrait of a Painter

People Making Difference
Contributed by : Archana Nagarajan

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Prachi Dange Kulkarni's outgoing demeanor offers no clue that there is a serious artist lurking underneath the cheerful chatty exterior.

In fact, Prachi is every bit the anti-thesis of the brooding artist. When I first met her at one of my husband's dull office soirees, I was instantly drawn to her bright disposition and flair for conversing with just about anyone about any topic under the sun. With moms, she talked about the challenges of raising children. With fashionistas, she effortlessly name-dropped every top designer brand. With me, she spoke about travel and asked curious questions about the culture of my native city. Because our husbands were colleagues, we exchanged numbers but over the next few months, we seldom spoke or met besides sending the occasional WhatsApp greeting.

A few months later, we had a chance to meet again when I offered to drive her and two other friends to Teej, an Indian music and dance festival exclusively for women. After a fun evening of binge-eating and dancing, we joined a long queue of ladies waiting to get their hands painted with complimentary henna tattoos. The henna artist took her time with each customer and the line moved slowly. Prachi lost her patience. I can do better henna art than her, she announced unabashedly. Marching up to the tattoo artist, she asked for a henna cone (a piece of wax paper which is packed with henna paste and then rolled into a cone, much like an icing piping bag). The artist was taken aback but offered her one anyway.

With a flourish, Prachi proceeded to decorate the palms of my friends with intricate henna designs. For the first time, I noticed how deft and artistic she was.

But it would take me a whole year to find out that she was a full-fledged painter. That is because, unlike most people I know who flaunt their skills and talents at the drop of a hat, Prachi never talks about her art work. It's no big deal, she shrugs simply whenever I mention her paintings. Her art exhibitions and awards, including the most recent ribbon awarded by the Utah State Fair, sit lightly on her shoulders.

In fact, I would never have found out about her art if I had not walked into her quiet, sunlit apartment one hot summer afternoon and found her walls lined from ceiling to floor with pensive portraits and rolling landscapes.

You collect? I asked, naively.

No dear, I made these, she said unpretentiously.

And that's how I came to know that, like the layers making up a painting, there are many layers to Prachi. Without peeling back the top layers, you won't easily get to see the artist underneath.

Prachi lives in Draper, Utah with her husband and five year old son. When she is not attending art class at The South Willow Artists Group or dropping her son off at school, she can be found guiding budding artists, both young and old, in the arts of sketching and painting.

INTERVIEWER
Let's start with a very basic question. What's your favorite painting medium?

PRACHI
I love working with oils. From time to time, I experiment with water colors and acrylics but I keep returning to oil. They are so easy to mix and have a long life.

INTERVIEWER
What do you like to paint?

PRACHI
Everything - landscapes, portraits, still life. But mostly, I love painting people. I am drawn to faces. The expressions, the moods - they are quite a challenge to capture on canvas.

INTERVIEWER
What would you say is your painting style?

PRACHI
Realism mostly and a bit of Impressionism. I usually stay away from styles which confuse the viewer, like abstract art, for instance. I've never understood it. I want to create straight forward art which people can appreciate without getting confused.

INTERVIEWER
Did you formally learn to paint?

PRACHI
No, it's always been just a hobby.

INTERVIEWER
How do you get the inspiration for a painting?

PRACHI
Well, the subject is what inspires me to pick up the brush. A chance to use vibrant colors, cadmiums are my favorite, is what I look for in my subjects. I love painting Indian clothing and autumn colors.

INTERVIEWER
Who are your favorite artists?

PRACHI
Scott Birdick and Richard Smith are my favorite artists. I am an admirer of Birdick's real impressionistic style. He is my hero because he has traveled extensively to Asian countries, particularly Thailand and India and captured the vibrancy of those cultures in his art. Richard Horrocks, who is my mentor, is also a favorite.

INTERVIEWER
What was it like studying under Richard Horrocks?

PRACHI
Richard is an amazing mentor. He used to teach art at the University of Utah until his retirement. Now, he teaches at the South Willow Artists Group and works on commissioned projects. He has an excellent understanding of the art scene here in Utah, and of patrons' tastes. He encourages me to paint vibrant Indian subjects like the Holi color festival, Rajasthani village scenes, puppets and so on as they have a good market here in the USA.

INTERVIEWER
Have you sold any paintings? What did it feel like to sell your first painting?

PRACHI
I sold my first painting when I was in high school. That was a long time ago, when I lived in Maharashtra, India. Selling a painting is always exciting, not because of the money it generates but because it is an honor to see someone like your work enough to want to own it.

INTERVIEWER
Do you have a particular audience in mind when you paint?

PRACHI
No, I usually paint for myself. I do ask my husband and friends for their opinions but I never paint with a particular audience in mind.

INTERVIEWER
Has moving to the United States affected your artistic style? How?

PRACHI
The technique hasn't changed but the colors I use have. In India, I used a lot of vibrant colors like saffron and cadmiums, but here in USA, the trees are different, sceneries are different, so I use a lot of greys.

INTERVIEWER
Which is the most difficult part of the painting to get right?

PRACHI
The 3D look. An artist is judged based on her ability to portray depth. Paintings without depth look more like printouts.

INTERVIEWER
Do you also teach painting?

PRACHI
I have been teaching children since I was in high school. I love to teach because my knowledge improves with each session. I volunteer as an art teacher whenever I can. There's nothing I love to do more than guide young children with painting and sketching.

INTERVIEWER
What advice would you give first time painters?

PRACHI
Anyone can paint. You don't need to be a born artist. Learning to sketch is the foremost step. Once you've got the sketching down to a T, the rest of your painting falls in place eventually. Also, read books on painting and study works of other artists.

To contact Prachi, write to dangeprachi@gmail.com



 

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