Rembering Orijit: methods & materials

Vishwajyoti Ghosh

1990-2010.

My journey of these years as a student of drawing and visual arts can be clearly demarcated in two phases – pre Photoshop and post Photoshop. Of the latter, nothing much needs to be said, I guess it could be the same as everyone; hence I shall of something from a phase preceding it.

Cut back to 1993.

Aniruddha Sengupta of Media Workshop, New Delhi had just commissioned me my first freelance assignment, a small illustration in black & white. Upon the successful completion of the job, he told me to get in touch with his brother, who had just opened a shop in Connaught Place selling hand painted T shirts. “Why don’t you meet him? It could be interesting.” Jump to Bus No. 541 with a sketchbook of drawings and some finished illustrations.

People Tree had just opened in the Regal Building, in an old shop that once had something to do with doctors, medicine, testing lab or in other words- ‘health care’. There they were, Orijit Sen and Gurpreet had started this shop and were painting T shirts. People Tree as we know it today, was yet to have a name. Soon I started painting T shirts there, supporting myself,  my education  and smiling in the process.

(Cut to sepia toned images of a struggling art student painting T shirt with an exasperated expression {even though he’s having fun doing it}, Orijit Sen smoking bidis in solidarity with his Narmada comrades and painting T shirts of protest and Gurpreet, the matriarch cracking the whip, trying to put in place a few working systems of this nascent enterprise and thus going mad.)

A lot like this did happen.

With time Baba Orijit started talking to me more than he ever would and gave me the confidence to talk to him, pick his brains on a variety of things. He shared with me his collection of Comics (Maus, the Hiroshima one in Japanese) and thus began my journey on a road that makes me write this blog today. However my greatest thrill arrived one afternoon, when he shared with me one of his own single page comics that he had just finished for India Magazine. I felt privileged.

Rendered in black ink, coloured with electric shades of the sketch pens, my eye stopped on a single box, a close up of a woman’s face with intricate cross hatching.

“Oh wow! Within this size, how did you get so much detail? What number Rotring did you use?” Please remember, I am talking of pre Photoshop days, where the life of an Art College student juggled between .01. .05, .02 and 1 number Rotring Pens. For everything. Every-thing and that included filling a form for the DTC Student Buss Pass (All route).

I looked up at Orijit for an answer and he snapped “What Rotring?” Silence.

“This is the normal 5-rupaye-wala-ball-point-pen…” With the expression less face.

It was a liberating experience! To hell with those bloody expensive, engineered, german, industrial Rotrings. It was an afternoon to learn that material was not as important as the skill to handle it. Thus the method took over the material. Forever. I have never used a Rotring in my illustrations as far as I can remember, I could be wrong but I think I am right.

But yes, I never drew with a ‘normal 5-rupaye-wala-ball-point-pen’ either.

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P.S. People Tree hardly sells hand painted T shirts anymore, in fact none at all. They are a hip brand. Gurpreet is still at it and Orijit doesn’t draw on paper anymore. He has moved on to a ultra-sleek Macintosh and draws with a super expensive digital pen on a super sensitive tablet. I am still on the drawing board. (Cut to sepia toned images of a struggling comic maker drawing…)

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