The Padma Shri maestro painter adding colors to Rajasthani traditional art – The journey of Tilak Gitai
Late Shri Manfool Devi
Late Shri Ram Gopal Agrawal
26th October 1949
Proudly says ‘imd1’ for
Miniature Painting, Art
Some people are God gifted with natural talent that doesn’t exist within everyone. What goes on in your mind when you see a miniature painting? The first word that comes in is ‘wow’ & then one starts analyzing the work of the artist with the mood & feelings portrayed in every art piece. With his unusual talent & dedication, Padma Shri Awarded, TilakGitai is one such recognized painter who has curate miniature art paintings that speak about our Indian culture & tradition. The painting itself sings the harmonies of the ragas they portray.
One needs a magnifying glass to see the detailing in each canvas of Rajasthani art. He mastered the art in Miniature paintings. He has been applauded & has a special allusion by the former president of U.S Bill Clinton for his book ‘Ragamala – The Missing Link’. In Ragamala paintings, Gitai has bought in life in the paintings by combining musical codes with poetry. He makes paintings on various surfaces like old handmade paper, wall murals & fine silk. The materials &colors used are his own made from precious stones, minerals & herbs. The brushes are made from squirrel hair. Gold & silver colors are made from gold & silver leaf.
Team imd1 had a chat with him a few days ago, read on to know him further!
We are really keen to know, how did your journey begin?
We are very creative people by birth. My grandfather was proficient in Music & Kathak. My father was a master court painter of Bikaner Maharaja, an all-rounder. He was an artist, did handicrafts, painting, etc. Like Abhimanyu, I was exposed to different art forms. As I started schooling, my interest in drawing enhanced. Teachers used to doubt on my art piece as outlined & instructed me one day to make it on the blackboard in their presence. I made a replica & they were shocked. In such a manner, during secondary I got an award for my drawing. I did I.G.D. Mumbai, than joined Rajasthan School of Art than further I joined Delhi College of Art to pursue Art stream and did B.F.A. (first batch in India from University of Delhi). This way I climbed the success ladder & received lot of recognition along with the National Award in 1982.
Quote for Life
“Without Focus there is No Success’’- Bird’s eye test by Guru Dronacharya for Arjun in Mahabharat
Food I Love
Food I Hate
Had I not been an artist then
Army, Wrestler or Bodybuilding (sports)
Like Vacations at
Kashmir & Switzerland
Favorite Pass time
Reading Books, Listening to Music
Historical, Period, social movies & love stories
Favorite Actor / Actress
Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna
What has been your success mantra?
Whatever I thought, I achieved! I was strong will-powered! The book on Ragamala Paintings published by American processor Klaus Ebeling, has been my greatest source of inspiration. Ragamala Paintings provides a pictorial description of the different ragas. It mentions how Indian painters have the finest in art but there is a certain factor lacking as there was no connection of the paintings with the stances mentioned in the poetries or music. It lacked the emotional connect with the ragas.
It was astonishing research of our 300 year old art form. I wanted to wipe out this difference & worked almost 10 yrs on it in collaboration with musicians who have received Padma Bhushan & prestigious awards. I decided to bring back life in these paintings. Each painting should reflect the ragas which have to connect with the audience. I conveyed the melodies & life in my painting. I have done a great research and work on the ancient “Ragamala Paintings” and add with my own imagination and creativity the missing portions to these paintings without which, in essence, these paintings were incomplete. My one set of Ragamala Paintings is displayed at Musee d’ enthnographic-Geneva. I wrote a book on ‘Ragamala - The Missing Link’ by putting down the theory of correspondence between music & paintings.
Bringing back the forgotten tradition of our country has leaded me to success. We should not forget our genre in art. The old Indian art is the soul of our nation.
What were the hardships & hurdles you encountered & how did you overcome them?
After schooling, I wanted to pursue a special course in art. We are three sisters & three brothers. My father could not afford an expensive education. I decided to apply for scholarship & not ask money from him. My father was open-minded & gave me permission to chase my dreams as he always braced people who had the flair & allegiance. There was no hostel in Art College. So I stayed with my aunts who resided near my college. After 6 months, I felt I should find my own room since I was not comfortable perturbing anyone. I showed my work to Chief Educative Counselor of Delhi& convinced him to provide me a place to stay. He was very happy with my work & arranged my stay in engineering college hostel. Simultaneously, I got lot of job offers & work like making logos, commercial designing etc. Miniature art required lot of materials for making our own brush, surfaces for painting like 100yr old papers, precious stones & metals. We utilize & convert the new colors to make it look old & even teach the same to our students. It takes 6 months to make certain colors. Making the raw material for miniature is a science & research in itself.
Success is incomplete without its share of failures. How should one overcome them to move on?
I worked for 10 yrs with passion. I was a freelancer artist. With this profession I managed to run my household. I have portrayed descants & songs in my painting. To do this I had to understand the ragas. The paintings hum the ragas depicted in them. Even the prominent musicians cannot explain the raga in detail the way I have scripture them in my paintings. Due to unfamiliar language, certain anecdotes had to be translated by experts in Hindi & English. When I had to publish my book I had no publisher & financer to my rescue. From Jaipur to Delhi no one was ready. My 10 yrs effort seemed to be going in drain. I ran from one publisher’s office to the other but they were not giving me any royalty. Back of my mind I was concerned for my children as I had to even sponsor their education & marriage. Here my wife played a big role by sacrificing her jewelry & helped me in publishing my book. Now I feel happy when I see my book being sold on Internet in various platforms.
Do you think Painting & its learning’s can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?
Miniature painting gives you a different sense of satisfaction & peace of mind. The one who starts liking it becomes passionate & fanatical about it. The one who recognizes the depth of it gets closer to god. He / she need not even visit temples. Paintings make you spiritually inclined.
Who has been your influencer in your journey so far?
My father has been my influencer. I have got this talent from my father. His work was beyond explanation. Even Arjun did not teach Abhimanyu to break the chakravyuh. I would also love to spread my knowledge to others.
Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I am the 1”?
An artist needs gratitude. Or else he / she will get deterred. I still want to accomplish many things before I contemplate myself as ‘imd1’.
Is your success backed by a formal training?
After schooling I did ‘Intermediate Grade Drawing Examination’ Mumbai, than I joined Rajasthan school of Art., for a 2 yrs basic course which includes painting, commercial designing & sculpture clay modeling. So I learned different concepts there. When I joined Delhi College of Art; out of 500 students, 20 were selected for fresh Admission. I was one among them, I kept on receiving merits & scholarships. I did lot of freelancing work too, like logo designing, illustrations making, adverts, etc. Everything was work of hand as that time there were no computers. Training came mostly from experience & inbuilt talent.
Could you reflect on the importance of systematic training in Painting?
Painting is not a profession or commercially inclined. It’s not modern music which doesn’t need the basic training as compared to classical music. You need to know the right chords. Training too has to be systematic. I had met some experts in college who asked me to sharpen the stencils. Since I had no clue about it, so how will I sketch? But believe me, that was an important basic knowledge. Color knowledge, basic sketching & knowledge about brush is important. Just painting is not enough. You have to bring out the music & the feelings associated with it through your depictions. One needs to enjoy what they do.
Are there any prerequisites like age, fitness or a particular type of mindset required to pursue Painting?
The level of Miniature painting is eminent. There has to be a fire within to learn this art form. One needs to have elementary talent for taking up art. You can become doctor, engineer or advocate with studies. But Artist, Writer and Musician cannot be created. They are god’s gift & inborn. With the groundwork one can grasp more knowledge & blessings from experts.
Technology & scientific training has been changing the way people get trained in Painting. What’s your take?
I have visited many art colleges in India & overseas. I was invited for a workshop in Switzerland, where I saw one artist do her drawing on the computer. But when I had made my piece the people present there were stunned & surprised at the same time. With digital technology, one can create wonders but not as good as our carving as we put in our soul & emotions into it. If we amalgam talent & technology it can create wonders. With technology one can show how you have converted your drawing to a masterpiece rather than changing the entire nature of the art piece.
How can one select an ideal ‘Guru’ for getting formal coaching?
If you want to learn from someone & you have the passion, that person will somehow find his own guru. Today experts are available on internet, websites & other social media mediums. One can always get in touch with them.
What according to you, can be a scope for improvement in training for Painting in India?
A basic course needs to be implemented in art colleges to enhance the already available talent.
What do you suggest for better accessibility of Painting in remote parts of India?
There are many artist & talented people in villages. They need lot of motivation & workshops for training. They do not have financial backing to get themselves competent. The government should work on this aspect & bring out the talented artists from remote areas.
Your piece of advice to parents & new generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.
Those people only will be successful whose parents can identify their talent whether in arts, sports or any other field. No work is big or small. In Ireland there is no teacher until 10 yrs of age as they do not want anyone to push their thoughts on the young minds. That’s why there are open minded & talented people there, who have opted diverse fields like becoming scientist, artist, etc. Michelangelo’s parents wanted him to become a surgeon but he was interested in sculpting. Day & night he used to make human drawings & now he is famous as a magnificent sculptor who has made some amazing statues of human form.
How can one identify this talent in the family & encourage it?
I had only two interests- painting & exercising. Parents have to start noting down what is the hobby of their children. You can’t force them your choice; it has to come from within. When I was in Switzerland, I observed that they take kids for one hour to play with toys. These types of games, role plays & activities help them identify their interest &motivate them in that line. Parents play a very important role here.
One thing which you feel you wants to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…
I have a long list of achievements & teachings in my life. I want to set-up my own institute. To purchase land I need finance. I don’t want to take any loan as such because I know this age is not appropriate to burden myself with debt. We need good sponsors who can donate this noble cause of promoting art & its teachings.