the love of nature
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
A water-colour painting of a tusker bears silent
testimony to his creative acumen. The tusker, a Navam Perahera elephant
whose beauty attracted the eye of this artist whose forte
is black and white drawings, was special. The elephant deserved
soft-spoken youth's mission in life is to conserve nature. A conservationist
and nature lover, Shantha Jayaweera has discovered a creative medium
to impart his message about caring for mother nature; his reflective
habit of doing sketches for 'pure enjoyment' developed into an ardent
interest in wildlife painting when he joined the Young Zoologists'
Association(YZA). There he met many like-minded youth and was inspired
to paint more. He founded the art group of the YZA along with others
and with the passage of time, Shantha's drawings grew more in-depth
important that a wildlife or nature artist acquire a degree of artistry
in paintings, but he/she should be mindful of the need for authenticity.
Many draw sketches that are not proportionate," notes Shantha.
With his keen
eye, Shantha first began sketching fish, and later developed an
interest in birds
is time-consuming work. First, I study the species and make mental
notes. It is at this stage that I decide on the angle to paint and
make a rough sketch. The nuances change from angle to angle. The
light and fine details are important to achieve technical perfection
in a drawing," he says.
When he did
his very first set of paintings, he used the myriad tones of water
colours to paint freshwater fish. Later he shifted to ink. "There
is a certain serenity in black and white work. A certain peaceful
and soothing effect. Like the Japanese sketches that supplement
the nature-inspired Haiku verses. A distinct quality that is eclipsed
by the use
seems more refined due to the use of tiny dots to shade the drawing
instead of lines. "Lines are exact and give drawings a severe
look while dots retain a special softness," he notes.
Each of his
sketches takes over two months. He shows us the first elephant he
drew which took him more than three months of painstaking effort.
"I cannot rush my work. When I am pressurized, the quality
drops and imperfections appear. This is one reason I dislike doing
large-scale commercial paintings. To-date, it is mostly a case of
drawing for pleasure," he smiles.
research on the highly threatened slender loris and also preparing
to compile a freshwater fish guide, Shantha is passionate about
fish. He feels that they are not focused on as they are not considered
is why I am slowly shifting my focus to fish. They deserve more
attention from conservationists and researchers. Birds can at least
fly. But fish cannot swim beyond the confines of the particular
water resource," he said.
He has also
assisted in a book titled "Farming like the forest- traditional
home gardens in Sri Lanka". Having done a series of sketches
for the book, he released a unique collection of post cards with
garden scenes drawn with ink.
way, it was a silent appeal to conserve nature. Each drawing was
distinct. But they all provided an insight into Sri Lankan heritage.
I often think that theoretical conservationists with their stiff
approach do more harm to nature. Conservation cannot be a reality
when we do not impart a message properly. I often try to evoke a
feeling, a certain love for nature through my sketches," explains
and six other nature enthusiasts/painters formed a 'wildlife art
group' where they conduct regular lessons for YZA members. Shantha
does the entire junior course for those below 12 years.
and wildlife art are special areas. Technical perfection is mandatory
to become a wildlife painter. The seven of us who are into nature
painting in a big way, share our knowledge to harness their skills.
Through that, we inspire them to become conservationists and nature
lovers- two aspects that go hand in hand.
held a workshop at the Bundala national park for youngsters and
shared their knowledge on how to paint a particular species, colour
selection and even the drawing techniques.
is a lot of potential in rural areas. They are also blessed with
the kind of scene that painters need to come looking for. We hope
to create a new breed of young nature/wildlife painters so that
they may learn the need to conserve and appreciate mother nature.
Investing in the future generation is the only way to protect the
earth and prevent further environmental destruction," he explains.
discuss with the youngsters the issues affecting nature, how to
prevent pollution and destruction. The children are guided to start
with the habit of observation and appreciation of what they have
been blessed with. "We attempt to bring people close to nature,
make them one with it. Through that to develop a desire to conserve,"