It all started when one day, the passenger who sat opposite to him began to doze off. "I took out my pen and at the end of the journey I gifted my drawing to the stranger who was my first 'victim,' says Johnarts, 46, a caricaturist.
Today, Indian ministers, film personalities and other celebrities visiting Kuwait have a 'gotcha' gift to take home, whether they like it or not: their own caricatures presented to themselves before the public by the artist.
The 100x70 caricature, sketched using a black marker on a white slender styrofoam is loosely based on photos of the guest, but closely portrays the celebrity's image. Sometimes, the photos are handed over to the artist by the event organizers days before the function. The caricaturist, after carefully cramming the photos and the popular image, does the magic in a few snappy strokes. The guest, usually taken aback with the pleasant surprise, takes the 'funny side of the persona' in good humor.
Johnarts, who is a former drawing teacher at the Ministry of Education (MoE), has just completed his 100th gift-caricature. "Caricaturing is a pastime I explored while I was a Fine Arts student," says the 46-year-old artist who has been living in Kuwait since 1992. In his own words: I used to go to college by train and, as my professor had instructed, I would observe passengers.
There are 670 caricatures to Johnarts' credit among numerous oil paintings and sketches, some of them adorn his Jleeb apartment. "Although I've drawn lots of still life, landscapes and abstract works", admits the caricaturist, "I think I'll be remembered for my caricatures." Johnarts has done two exhibitions in Kuwait and is planning for another one for a wider audience. The exhibition will showcase caricatures of famous Indian expatriates living in Kuwait. "As such I've completed the ambassador's profile,
The vegetarian caricaturist is happy about how his works have been turned into an item on the stage during a function. "I've received more recognition as a caricaturist than as an artist," he said, adding "and how cheap and instantly attractive caricatures are compared to a painting, economy-wise and effort wise, I've more time with my family!
Johnarts had his 'golden era,' as he puts it, in his life as an artist back in 1993 when he was assigned artworks at the Amiri palace in Kuwait. He did a range of acrylic, oil and tempera works at various palaces in Kuwait. In 1994, he says, Sheikha Majida Nawaf presented him mementos and certificates of appreciation. Johnarts also treasures a recent golden remark made upon one of his caricatures by visiting Indian minister. At the function, looking at the artist's vision of the minister, the VIP said, "The caricature looks better than I!
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