Art, has a way of finding the best to express its' self to an audience. It is an amazing talent which, if nurtured right can influence and change the World! Our artist in conversation today is Hemantha Warakpitiya, he is a painter, a cartoonist and an illustrator. He has a sharp eye for detail and is brilliant in his chosen style of painting. He is one who has held on to his God given talent and turned it to something brilliant. We speak of Hemantha today with much respect and are privileged to bring this interview to you!
How long have you been painting?
I have been painting since I was 19 years old, that is since 1986. It has been a long time and so much has changed over the years. But my passion has only grown. My liking for Art began when I was very young and still at school. The journey has been one with challenges but it has also been very satisfying.
Who are your greatest influencers?
As mentioned before, I initially learnt about Art while I was still at school. Janaka Ratnayake, was a cartoonist. He was quite famous back in the day and I had the privilege of learning under him. I was taught about pastels, different types of oil and paints. Janaka was not a painter but he ignited a flame in me which made me hunger for more. Back in the day, there was no technology readily available like today for us to access the internet. So it was later on that I learnt about Michelangelo, again through the coercing of my then superior where I worked in the field of advertising.
Did you have a formal education on art and painting or are self-taught?
I do not have formal education on Art, I am a self- taught Artist. I initially drew comics and later on began to draw portraits and landscapes. As mentioned before, I learnt about the importance of detail through great artists like Michelangelo and I incorporated those aspects in to my paintings.
What are other passions other than art? How have these passions contributed for you to become the artist you are today?
To be honest, I do not have any other passions. I like to draw cartoons in my spare time. This helps me to relax and take my mind off strenuous tasks.
Do you have a particular style? How did you become so passionate of this style?
I am a realistic painter. I like to show things as it is. I am quite fond of ancient artefacts and life styles of the days gone by so whenever I get a chance I travel and explore Sri Lanka as there is such a rich history which we need to show the world. I love to draw carts used in the bygone days, I can't explain the reason for this passion but I love to recreate every detail. The Covid 19 pandemic has restricted my movements now but I look forward to resuming my journey again.
Could you walk us through the 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?
For me, I spend a lot of time searching for reference whatever the piece I need to paint. I believe this is very important for any piece to become what it is. For example, If I am to draw a scenery from a village, I make sure to visit the place and observe the trees and replicate them in the actual painting. I observe the features of the village folk and try to include them as well. I feel if not, I have not done justice for the painting. Also being a realistic painter, this needs to be a part of the process. I learnt this from overseas artists who take reference before carrying out a painting. I think this is a very important aspect as this helps me to lay the foundation. Next comes the add-ons where I add color and depth to painting. With all this it takes approx. 2 weeks for me to complete a 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 you leave as pure fun?
To be honest, I am not looking out for new styles to acquire or practice. I have always been and will continue to be a realistic painter as I love showing reality as it is to my audience. It has always been well received both locally and overseas. I may improve on my style but my heart is set on being a realistic painter J.
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 make that leap?
Since my humble beginnings almost 35 years ago, I know I have learnt so much. And my art speaks for itself as over the years I have been able to earn a good income with my paintings. And they are displayed at several influential homes throughout Sri Lanka. I believe those buyers admire and appreciate my talent, hence pay to have a piece drawn by me in their homes. I would not want to say I am better than everyone else but I am humbled by what I have learnt and where I am today.
How do you push yourself? Do you set goals for yourself? And if so, what are the goals? Do you think setting goals is important for an artist in his/her artistic journey? If so why?
I think in life it is important for one to have goals. They help us have a vision and a reason to wake up every morning. For me, over the last few years, when I did not have a steady income, my goal was to make sure I sell one of my paintings for a month. So for that I knew I had to make an extra effort to do a brilliant painting. Goals keep us going and give us a purpose and it is good for all of us to have them.
How is your experience working with Aartzy? Do you think it is a useful platform for artists?
Janaka and I have been working together for almost 3 years now. At a time when I had a limited circle of people to share my work and not being too tech savvy, Janaka was a blessing as he took my work beyond my reach and even overseas. At the beginning, Janaka explained that It will take time to build up a momentum and that I must be patient. Now I am reaping the benefits of listening to him as I have been able to sell many pieces through Aartzy. I must say that this is a wonderful platform for Artists like me. And I am glad to show the beautiful locations in Sri Lanka and the smiles of the people to the rest of the world!
Manesha Pieris (2021)