Carving records on pencil lead in pandemic times

Rajesh started chiselling names on pencil graphite when the nationwide lockdown was in force a year ago

Can a child sharpening her pencil see the possibility of carving out a beautiful sculpture from its graphite? Yes, according to Rajesh K.R., an art teacher in Aluva and a record holder in pencil art. “They should first start with letters. Those above 10 years can practise pencil lead art. They can slowly try carving images once they are thorough with letters,” he says.

Pencil carving tests an artist’s perseverance. It is a challenge, according to world-renowned Russian sculptor Salavat Fidai, who creates micro sculptures out of pencil lead. “Graphite is an interesting material. It is very fragile. Every time, I don’t know if I can finish my sculpture. I always test myself and look for the boundaries of human capabilities,” Fidai says in an Instagram chat.

For Rajesh, it was the testing times of the lockdown, after the first wave of the pandemic hit the country, that took him to the world of pencil lead art. Inspired by those who created world records with the medium, Rajesh, who loves films, started to chip and chisel the names of national award winners in Malayalam cinema on pencil graphite. “I terribly failed and broke almost 55 pencils in the beginning. However, I persevered.”

Rajesh finished sculpting names by the time the second wave of the pandemic hit the country. Now, he has a few records to his name for carving out the names of 16 Malayalam actors who won the National Film Award for Best Actor, on 16 different pencil leads. He wishes to present his work to Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA).

Rajesh uses a spotlight when he works on pencil lead. Surgical knife is his main tool, besides pins, to carve out sculptures from lead. For him, it is like untying a thousand knots in the mind. “Graphite is a delicate medium. You cannot be hard with it. Be soft and handle it like you are taking care of a baby,” he says.

A former resident of Edathala SOS Village, where children without parents find a home, Rajesh, a graduate in fine arts, now stays in a single-room rented house at Kalady.

A mural artist, the 30-year-old has also tried his hands at bamboo painting, bottle art, pencil drawing, and wood carving.

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