What is the art of stippling?
Stippling is an art form in which an artist puts thousands of individual dots very close to each other so as to create an image out of it. This was and even now is a very rare form of art in India, and is on the verge of extinction. State patronage is needed to help it survive.
What was the inspiration?
I observed lithography, which is a method of printing originally based on the immiscibility of oil and water. The printing is from a stone or a metal plate with a smooth surface. You have to put an individual dot to create a picture out of it. I first thought of trying this on a paper with waterproof ink, before making up my mind to walk this path.
Tell us about your background.
Born in an average family in village Bavdhan, a suburb of Pune, Maharashtra, I moved to Mumbai to take my degree in arts from the J. J. School of Arts.
As an intern with Voltas Limited for my regular living, I soon undertook to design and print six different magazines the company used to then publish, with the additional responsibility of designing the brochures, catalogues, posters, and advertising materials of its products, and the concept of exhibiting these products not only nationally, but internationally. It was my sole responsibility from conceptualisation to implementation, including the ideas, promotions, designs, setup, etc.
This passion for art and creativity lead me to also work in Bollywood as an assistant art director with Sudhendu Roy and M.R. Achrekar, respective art directors of famous directors/producers Bimal Roy and Raj Kapoor. For some time, I also worked with Hashu Advani of the BJP, and also took up social causes with activist Lilatai Mulgaokar.
How exacting a hobby is stippling?
Yes, though initially it was a hobby, I thought of continuing so as to keep it alive as an art. It is not tedious, but I would rather say it is a test of your patience. Everything in this world has a process, and you have to go through it from start to end, to get better results.
What is the process involved in stippling?
I select an image, take an actual size print on a regular paper, draw the outline and prominent details by pencil first, and then fill the entire thing by putting dots of different sizes with the help of crockwell nib and waterproof ink.
Is it easier to stipple from an imagined source or a hard copy?
I do it with a hard copy next to me. I cannot imagine the other way of having a portrait in mind, to take it on paper. Sometimes it is really detailed as when trying to show something sharp such as a saree design, texture or facial hair, curly hair or eyes which are not black.
Is stippling different from drawing, painting, printmaking, engraving, sculpting, and line art illustrations?
Yes indeed, it is different than regular drawing. Every art has a different type and method. Drawing itself consists of pencil drawings, scathes, water based paints etc., and everyone has their expertise over something. I may not draw a beautiful painting over my sharp portraits, and vice versa.
How can you compare it to hatching, half toning, dithering and computer printers? What is Pointillism?
Here halftone effect is created manually by size of the dots. Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. Georges Seurat and Paul Signac developed the technique in 1886, branching from Impressionism.
What are the materials, implements, and tools required?
Firstly a good quality drawing paper. Crockwell nib, waterproof ink, rubber, pencil and sometime a small brush.
Which subjects do stippling work well for?
Stippling works well in all related arts such as landscape, birds, animals and portraits. Yes, you can show the texture effect, but I am not sure about its use in digital or forensic science.
How many ways can stippling be used? Can stippling be used to produce a 3 Dimensional shape?
Stippling can be used only in one prime way to show darkness and lightness of the object. Yes, you can show 3D effect through type and sizes of dots, though I have never tried it.
How dense should the dots be?
For every micro and large dot, the nib is the same, whereas controlling the hand to create a size of that dot is a different art altogether. Every dot has a meaning. If you drop a larger dot instead of a small one, especially in the eyes of the picture, you cannot show the non-black eyes. In Marathi we call it “Ghare Dole”.
How much importance does light have in stippling?
Light plays a partial but not a crucial role, as you can do it in natural light as well as even with a tube light. Concentration and good eye sight is the key.
How is white space important in stippling? Is stippling in black and white or in colour better?
White space is equally important just like the black. You cannot get sharper details on any other combination to black other than white paper. Certain things are left white to show as white hair or skin color. Black and white is always better as it gives more liveliness to the picture. With colours, it might take more time, as you need to change nibs, different colour shades, etc.
How can gaps between the dots be an expressive tool in itself? As you work, how do you prevent producing unwanted “tails” on your dots?
The distance between two dots is very important to show the density of it. You should not leave a tail. Even if you do so, you can cover it up with white ink if it is manageable.
How long does one creation take?
The process of one portrait takes about 30 to 35 hours. Sometimes a 10 minute work stretches to a straight 5 to 6 hours, depending on the circumstances and mood.
Why restrict it to personalities and not include nature too?
Lot of people have suggested this to me. Presently, I have taken an assignment of creating only eyes of certain celebs and after that I don’t mind trying landscape, where you can easily cover up the mistakes you make, but here with a particular face, a mistake cannot be covered up at any given point, for a good result.
How do you get the patience and strength for it?
Firstly, you have to have sincere interest in such an art, especially when you know it is time consuming. Once you start with this intention, patience will automatically build when you realise the process, approach or motivation is leading to creation of something good. I must of course give credit to my wife, who is my strength, for her infinite patience, especially when I avoid lunch or ignore her at such times.
What have you done with your creations? How many have you created?
I have made more than thousands of them. Some of them I have gifted and received great appreciation. My collection includes portraits of famous personalities across the globe encompassing industry, politics, and sports to celebrities and artistes.
Have you commercialised them?
It’s still a hobby. I have not yet commercialised it, but I don’t mind selling them to the right buyers. But to be honest, I am not aware of such channels.
Have you had exhibitions of your work?
After shifting to Pune, I got the opportunity to meet the famous cartoonist late Mangesh Tendulkar. It was he who encouraged me to hold my first ever exhibition in Pune. To my surprise, I got a tremendous response. It proved the beginning of a new chapter in my artistic life. In fact it was he who gave me the title, ‘the magic hand’. It spurred me to have exhibitions abroad too. I have held a total of 10 exhibitions till now on a year to year basis in Pune, rest of Maharashtra and abroad.
The French government and the Savarkar Samiti are planning to build a monument at Marseillaise in France (from where he jumped into the ocean to make his escape). I can reveal with pride that a portrait of Veer Savarkar made by me, for which I received a gold medal, will be displayed there. Recently I was also honoured with the Punyacha Abhimaan award by the Maharashtra government and ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness).
What other hobbies do you have?
I love travelling and meeting new people. I also write short stories which are currently under consideration with certain producers to be made into films.
Can this art have a message?
The message is that nothing is impossible at any age. I still do it at the age of 79. This art should live long.
What is the purpose of life?
There is a subtle difference between a human being and being human. I donate all I earn through exhibitions, by way of entry fee and donations to various NGOs, and try to be a good human.
Prabhakar Patwardhan can be contacted on Cell: 9763669781