Artist India: Suma Varma
IT TAKES A LOT OF COURAGE TO RISE ABOVE CHALLENGES, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT HAPPENS AT A VERY EARLY AGE AND AFFECTS A LIFETIME OF OPPORTUNITY. WHEN ONE IS ABLE TO DO THAT WITH A SMILE, THE EFFORT IS COMMENDABLE. THE CRUEL BLOW DEALT BY FATE COULD NOT WIPE OFF THE SMILE FROM SUMA VARMA’S LIPS. NEITHER DID IT INHIBIT HER FROM GAINING A DEGREE IN COMMERCE AND PURSUING HER PASSIONS – MUSIC, CRAFTS AND PAINTING.
Suma was afflicted with polio at a young age. But the physical disability could not crush her undying spirit or curb her talents. She says that she manages to indulge in her hobbies due to the encouragement and strong support of her family. Suma narrates her story and shares with us the intricacies of ‘reverse glass painting’. Artist India
I was afflicted with polio at the age of one and half years. I have trained in classical music and have been teaching music for the past 20 years. I have always nurtured a passion for arts and crafts and have tried my hand at various crafts since childhood. I embroidered hand towels, taking tips from magazines.
Hand-crafting flowers made out of varied materials like onion skins, satin ribbons, organdie, paper as well as strips of cloth that my mother discarded after sewing dresses, was another pet project of mine. I used empty refills of ball point pens as stems of these flowers. During that phase, I crafted about 20 varieties of flowers – pictures from newspapers and greeting cards came in handy as reference.
Crafting images and pictures of birds and faces of ‘kathakali’ (traditional dance form of Kerala) performers was another craft that I indulged in. These were done on a base of cardboard, with pieces of bangles and fevicol. Later, I stitched bed spreads and table cloths, embellished with cross-stitch designs. I also learned the art of crochet, referring to books when necessary and made table mats, over-coats and DVD covers— which came handy as gifts. I have also done mural style paintings on sarees and am open to taking customised orders for painting on dress materials and sarees.
My tryst with glass painting started about 7 or 8 years ago. Our residence association arranged a training program for 2 days on fabric and glass painting and I grabbed the opportunity to learn the basics of the same. Later, I learnt more about mixing colours and shading by reading books on the subject as well as surfing the net for more tips. Trial and error method has worked well for me — during the early days, I even messed up the colours of a painting of Krishna and I had to remove the paint and re-do the entire body! I paint five days a week, averaging 2-3 hours a day.
REVERSE GLASS PAINTING TECHNIQUE
First a copy/print of the picture (human forms, deities etc) should be taken. This is placed under the glass sheet and the outlines are drawn on to the glass, using the picture below as a guideline. Once the outline is dry, apply varnish over the outline and leave it to dry.
The next day, remove the extra varnish carefully and start painting. The stone ornaments are done at first, with glass paint or pearl fabric paint. The next day, remove the extra paint (carefully, with a blade) outside the outline and apply varnish. Use golden paint for the gold ornaments and repeat the process of removing the extra paint and applying varnish.
Then, start with the nails. Repeat the process and after each coat of paint and apply varnish – this will help in avoiding smudging or spreading of paint. Repeat the process for the fingers, hands, legs and face. I do not outline the lips and nose with black as it looks unsightly to me. Once the body is done, move on to the dress – use glass paints.
For details like pleats of costumes, thick coat of paint in two or three layers are applied to give the effect. Aluminum foil is put on top of the painted image (the right side of the painting is the reverse). For the background, I use glass paints or coloured paper. Avoid using black paint for the background. Borders of dresses and crowns can also be tackled in the same manner as ornaments – design first and then the border.
Glitter glue is used at times for the designs of apparel and drapes. The paint should be applied in a thick layer, or else the gaps/holes will cause the foil to show through. To avoid this, I check the painting by propping it up on bottles and shining a torch from below. If there are any gaps, I fill them up with paint.”
“My mother sources the paints for me and my father gets the glass as well as the prints of the pictures for my paintings. My youngest sister and her husband send me rare pictures and also get me books on the subject. They are also my best critics – pointing out the shortcomings in my paintings. This certainly helps a lot in improving my work.”
This talented artist is yet to get the recognition and applause she deserves.
“My dream is to hold an exhibition of my paintings. However, my physical disabilities and financial background keep me from realising my dream,” says Suma, who posts pictures of her paintings on her blog Aparajitha.