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There are some artists in the world who take the ordinary and create beautiful masterpieces. They find something amazing in everything. Our artist in conversation today is Basil Cooray, a wonderful contemporary artist. We are honored to bring this interview to you today!

How long have you been painting?

I began painting when I was doing my Ordinary Level exams many years ago back in 1977.I remember I won the International Year of the Child Art competition, which motivated me to continue my painting. My brother has a talent which inspired me in a way to continue my work.

Who are your greatest influencers?

There was a local artist named Richard Gabriel, He was a very good artist who used many colors, different styles and figures in his paintings. Similarly, I prefer to add my own touch to every painting I create paintings which are somewhat different from the norm, which is similar to the work of the above artist and Modi Gilani, an Italian artist whom I follow and influenced me to create these paintings which I believe has their own style. As mentioned before, I love the use of color and the combinations are brilliant.

Did you have a formal education on art and painting or are you self-taught?

I have worked with many teachers during my time. Douglas Paul, Dominic Siril, Stanley Abeysinghe are a few of them. I also studied at the Vibhavi Academy under Mr Chandraguptha for 2 years, where I learnt drawing and creating figures. I did not learn painting, but the techniques relating to it. So I am a product of formal art education and self-learning.

Do you have a particular style? How did you become so passionate this particular style?

I am a contemporary artist, I create long figures which is a style unique to me. My paintings are said to be similar to that of Ivan Peiris. Again, it is the color combination that drew me to work with this style.

What are your other passions other than art? How have these passions contributed for you to become the artist you are today?

I love travelling around the island and going for long walks. During my escapades to the interior villages of Sri Lanka, I often take my camera and take photos for reference to be used in creating paintings later on. There is one particular village I visit named Ahatuwawewa, which is blessed with beautiful surroundings and a lifestyle which I greatly admire. The villagers are often seen playing the flute while the sun sets in the distance. And I create a series of paintings from this one moment.

Could you walk us through your process? Percentage wise, how much time do you spend preparing for the painting and how much time on the actual painting itself? Is preparation an important part of your process?

As I mentioned previously, I create a series of paintings forming a story on its own. So for example, if I am creating a painting of a landscape, I first observe the surrounding, create a sketch and take a photo if needed. I sketch my creation on a canvas and then try to fill in the gaps to complete the painting and try to find the right color combination. It will take me about 1 week to complete an oil painting if I work on it at a stretch, but often I take breaks in between as I need to refresh my mind. It is necessary for an artist to have a clear mind when painting.

Are you engaged in new artistic adventures? How is artistic exploration important to you as an artist and to your process? How do you then decide what to incorporate into your style and what to leave as pure fun?

Yes, I believe as an artist and as an individual, we must keep ourselves up to date with the new developments in the world. But it is important to remember to keep our individuality, for example, when someone sees my paintings they must remember that this is Basil Cooray's. I have expanded my paintings from watercolors, oil paintings to acrylics I have also tried out Charcoal and mixed media which is also a style I admire.

Was there a particular moment where you could tell that your skills had just crossed over into being an exceptionally good painter instead of a pretty good painter? What did you do to make that leap?

Yes, over the years, many have told me that my paintings are not just good, but great. I have also received many accolades which I believe is because my paintings are above the standard. I used to paint only using watercolors, but since moved on to charcoal and oil paintings.

How do you push yourself? Do you set goals for yourself? And if so, what are those goals? Do you think setting goals is important for an artist in his/her artistic journey? If so, why?

I think it is very important to have goals in life. They keep us focused. And as an artist, I have always had a plan for myself and I can humbly say I have achieved my goals today. I have no regrets.

How is your experience working with Aartzy? Do you think it's a useful platform for artists?

This December, it will be one year since I have joined Aartzy, it is a very good platform for us Sri Lankan Artists as it gives us a great reach to take our work to clients overseas. At a time when everything is being digitalized, I believe Aartzy has taken the correct stance by creating this wonderful platform.

Manesha Pieris

Basil's entire collection can be viewed through HERE