For Shashikant Vaman Dhotre, a school dropout from Solapur and a self-taught artist, his mother Ratan remains the center of his universe, and also the inspiration for his unique color photographic drawings on dark paper, which turned out to be turner toppers and hot sellers.
Using pencils imported from the UK and special black paper from France, Dhotre spends weeks or even up to two months creating his stunning designs, mostly of women, their moods and rich costumes.
“I have been devoted to my mother since childhood. I witnessed her struggles, as many times as my father – a bricklayer – was drunk, and she quietly took on the responsibility of raising her four sons and two daughters without any complaints or regrets… What I am today is due to his blessings,” said Dhotre, 41.
During his teenage years, Dhotre, an attentive observer, honed his early artistic talent by helping his father in quarries, chiseling or cutting hard stones with smooth lines to engrave different images – animals, birds, fish, flowers, his inspirations were endless. This is where he developed his passion for drawing very early on.
Then he observed his mother, busy with her chores like cooking, cleaning, sewing and washing, all the routine struggles and ordinary activities which later ignited his memorable drawings, reflecting his works in an artistic way.
In 2003, he won a scholarship at the prestigious Sir JJ School of Arts in Mumbai – with eminent alumni like Dhundiraj Govind aka Dadasaheb Phalke, MF Hussain, SH Raza, Bhanu Athaiya, Atul Dodiya, Homai Vyarawalla, Jatin Das, KK Hebbar , Tyeb Mehta, Uday Shankar, VS Gaitonde, Nana Patekar, Raj Thackeray, Jehangir Sabavala as well as Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
“However, I was forced to leave the institution in just three months due to the critical financial situation of the house and as the eldest son I plunged into the bread and butter of the family,” said said Dhotre.
He also decided to take the reins of the family and its future, and quickly discovered that with just a pencil, he could create amazing works of art – and attract many sponsors.
His very first creation won the Governor’s Award from the Bombay Art Society and drew attention to his unique style, drawing female figures on a black background, observing sea or flying creatures.
With his enormous control over the pencil and his great capacity for observation, Dhotre began to produce works of art with a combination of complexity and simple rusticity, leaving viewers impressed and appreciated. Time literally seems to freeze in his creations.
Arriving on the art scene like a colossus, Dhotre won prizes, distinctions and exhibitions in several countries around the world, his drawings dominating the crowd of contemporary art productions and even continued his “experimentations” with pencil and d other mediums, mainly for his own satisfaction.
This year, Dhotre has ventured into another unknown realm – filmmaking – and is currently directing a feature film in Marathi, “Sajna”, which is slated for release in mid-2023.
Dhotre is married to Namrata and the couple have two daughters – Surmai, 11, and Pali, 9.
On his fetish for darkness and whether it’s a sign of depression from his early wrestling days, Dhotre smiles and says, “Actually, I like black and it doesn’t symbolize depression. Darkness is more beautiful, the whole universe is black. Note how the multi-toned colors look better on a black/dark background.
Dhotre’s drawings of women are born first as photographs, which he uses as a “model” to produce eye-catching masterpieces on 60×40 inch black paper, at the rate of one or two, or at best around three a month.
Over the past decade, lady fortune has smiled approvingly on the Dhotre family and all are now well established, starting with the solid artistic foundations established by Dhotre and his pencillers.
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