Portrait of a Charcoal artist as a young man

Bhubaneswar: Debabrata Das, a charcoal artist from Dharamshala in Jajpur district of the state, was recently awarded as the Young Artist Award in Charcoal by the Lalit Kala Akademi in May this year.

Born to Santosh Kumar and Geetanjali Das, the 17-year-old lad with his crafty hands and artistic finesse has mastered the 12,000-year-old art in just six months and emerged as the youngest charcoal artist of the state.

Starting his career at a tender age of ten, Das received his initial training under the tutelage of his Trilochan Ghatuari where he learned the ropes of pencil shading and oil colour painting.

Orissa POST interacted with this budding artist at his residence in Bhubaneswar.


Out of all art types, why charcoal art only and who inspired you?

There are multiple colours but I find the two base colours, black and white, most apt to paint the truth. As for my source of inspiration, I was very much inspired by the charcoal work of my current Guru Manas Ranjan Jena. Besides, the works of Bikram Rout also fascinated me and continue to do so till date.

‘Charcoal art’, the very word sounds like an oxymoron. Could you please explain it to us in layman terms what exactly is it?

This is nothing new. As we all know that before we had these concrete roads and planned cities, humans were cavemen basically. Charcoal was often a key component of cave painting, with evidences suggesting that the oldest charcoal art was drawn about 30,000 years ago. Charcoal can be used in the same way you use a pencil to draw and shade anything. Charcoal can also be used to do the preliminary drawings of a painting on canvas. Once you’ve blocked in your shapes and values, spray with a workable fixative and start painting.

Tell us about your first solo art exhibition.

My first solo art exhibition was February 16 this year held at BK Art and Craft College in Bhubaneswar. I had my 21 paintings exhibited there and most importantly it was jointly inaugurated by bigwigs namely Bijay Biswal, a water colour artist, Gautam Gambhir who is a reputed oil painter, eminent painter and print maker and former chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi RB Bhaskaran, Vrundaban Solanki  and Padma Vibhusan awardee sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra. I proudly say that the exhibition was the greatest achievement of my life.


How did you react when you got to know that you were about to be awarded with the Young Artist Award in Charcoal by the Lalit Kala Akademi?

I couldn’t believe my luck! The news was delivered to me over telephone. It was a great honour for me.

What are your current plans?

I am looking forward to the Varanasi National Art Camp which is scheduled for December this year. And, thanks to Lalit Kala Akademi, next year I will be representing the state at the International Charcoal Art- 2019 to be held at Montreal in Canada.


What experts say:

Manas Ranjan Jena (Secretary of Lalit Kala Akademi): Charcoal painting is the most basic form of art. And, about Debabrata, I would say that the restrain in his fingers, the dexterity of his hands, that is sheer talent. His level focus and determination are second to none. After all, his genius is testified by the fact that he mastered the art in just six months whereas normally it takes around two years at the very least.

Bijay Biswal (An eminent artist): I was held spellbound when I visited his solo exhibition. At such a young age it is commendable to see that he has mastered the ancient art and his paintings are being exhibited. He is just 17! I am confident of him and hope that he will continue to bring more laurels to the state as well as to our country.

Bikram Rout (An eminent artist): Like everyone else I am not surprised either as I believe he is born for it. His participation in various art exhibitions across the state simply showcases his talent and passion to do charcoal work.


Chaitali Shome, OP






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