What makes a city unforgettable?
Whether it is the people, food, architecture or just the way of life, every city has its own charm and the captivating ability to forge bonds with people in the most mystical of ways.
Documenting a city in a way that best depicts its little quirks and nuances along with forgotten heritage structures and little alleyways, is nothing less of an enormous task. However, one young artist is capturing ‘Madras’ in its complete glory through mini illustrations etched in ink.
Chennai girl Hemalatha Venkatraman had always been fascinated with her hometown but the feeling became more pronounced when she had moved to Columbus, Ohio to pursue her Masters in Fine Arts.
‘Madras in Mini’ is Hemalatha’s project, which she started in December last year when she had come home for a small break.
It comprises of numerous mini sketches ranging from iconic locations to lesser-known nooks and corners of the unassuming city.
“There is so much more to the city than what the eyes capture. More than the historical and cultural significance, what makes Madras a riveting city are its simple and down-to-earth ways that never fail to amaze. The project has been an attempt to picture such nuances that often go amiss in photographs,” says Hemalatha to The Better India.
From cart vendors on streets and local community dogs to heritage buildings and sandy beaches across Chennai, Hemalatha has sketched them all.
An intersection of interests encompassing architecture, heritage, history and art, all the 50 cutout pieces in the mini-series were created in a limited span of time and that too, on the spot.
“Watchmen, flower-sellers, and even pakoda vendors, who happened to be at the sites where I was sketching, drew my attention to aspects that I had missed out. While sketching had definitely been an engaging experience, the warmth and kindness that I found amidst complete strangers who tagged along in my pursuit, will always be close to my heart,” she remembers.
This series, however, has not been Hemalatha’s first venture. In fact, her fixation with illustrating cities goes all the way back to 2014, when she had released ‘The Madras Catalogue,’ a series of postcard illustrations on Madras that sold out like hot cakes when posted online. She also has created different series on various cities that she had visited in India and the US.
Usually, each of these illustrations, regardless of their size, takes Hemalatha anytime between 1-7 hours.
“Sketching the Palace Theatre in Columbus had taken seven long hours, thanks to its sheer enormity and elegant construction, which required time to be justly translated on paper. That was probably the longest I’d ever taken to sketch something, but the end-result was worth the effort,” she adds.
Besides illustrating cityscapes, Hemalatha also dabbles in other artsy projects, of which #100DaysofTeabagArt is the most interesting one. A self-professed lover of tea, Hemalatha found unlikely canvas in used teabags and creates extraordinary illustrations on far-ranging yet topical themes.
Already a known face amidst the art circuits in Columbus, Hemalatha’s first international solo art exhibition was held in September last year.
Currently working on her master’s thesis, Hemalatha also holds the position of a graduate teaching assistant in Ohio State University and takes classes for undergraduates.
You can check the complete ‘Madras in Mini’ series along with Hemalatha’s various other art projects, here.