Krishna on Speed
The setting was a luxurious private home perched atop Hayward Hills with a breathtaking view of the bay and the ocean. The artist mounted his blank black canvas on an easel strategically placed on the spacious view deck and turned his back to the audience watching expectantly. Like me, many of us in the audience of 40 or so people had heard of 'speed painting' but never watched it performed live. Within minutes, 34-year-old Vilas Nayak brought the portrait of Krishna to life under the influence of hauntingly melodious mood music. (See video below.) The impact on the audience was riveting. Many broke out in spontaneous applause; others roared their appreciation—"wow" and "Oh, my God!" being the loudest cheers—; there was not one among us who was not moved by the performance or the paintings.
Speed painting is exactly what you'd imagine—creating art against the clock. Artists give themselves a limited time to finish a piece of work from a few minutes to a couple of hours. Unlike sketching, however, speed paintings are considered complete after the time is up—if the artist alters their work afterward, it is no longer a speed painting. It's also a load of fun to watch, and that's the reason why speed painting which is both a painting, and a performance style is growing more and more popular with time.
Of course, the success of a live portrait hinges largely on the audience's ability to recognize it's content. No one will appreciate how you've captured a subject's likeness if they have no idea who your subject is. In this case, the largely Indian audience connected with Vilas —and were gob smacked by his talent—because the portraits of Ganesha, Buddha (which he created upside down), and Krishna were recognizable as the images were brought to life.
Finalist of India’s Got Talent season 3 and winner of ‘EC live quotient Most Innovative Act Award’ 2012, Vilas Nayak is currently one of the most sought-after speed painting artists in the world. The origin of this success story traces to Vilas growing up in Ujire, a town near Mangalore in coastal Karnataka, where he started sketching when he was only three years old. He did not have the benefit of fancy art schools or YouTube videos to watch. He is largely a self-taught artist who quit his job at IBM to pursue his passion for art. In fact, it was when he was working as a talent manager that he had an ah-ha moment, "What am I doing with my own talent?" he recalls asking himself. He left his corporate career in 2011, and the rest is history.
Speed painting has a freestyle element to it that expresses an artist's talent to the fullest extent as they produce a work of art with showmanship. "In speed painting, anything can go wrong because it is a live performance, " explains Vilas when I catch up with him later. "I have not practiced this (Buddha) painting earlier. It's at moments like this that I feel the talent I have is God's gift." An unassuming man, Vilas keeps himself grounded, but I can attest to the impact made on the audience listening to inspirational music while watching the face of Buddha being captured on the 48X60 inch canvas—a deep admiration and respect for the artist bringing this celestial being to life! (See it on the video below.)