I won't hesitate at all to state that the art scene in Udaipur is at par with those in Shantiniketan and Baroda and in fact, I would go further and say that it's even more charming and fascinating, posing a serious competition to the bigwigs. For those who do not believe a word of that personal observation (after my three visits), I'd recommend a trip to this enchanting city of lakes, palaces, havelis, gardens, hills and of course, art. While climbing up and down it's hilly terrain, one can't get enough of the quaint shops, lining narrow streets on either sides, with a serious variety of art on display. Mughal miniature, of course, tops the list, but not far behind are other forms like wall mural painting, cut-work with transparent & colored glass, puppet-making, wood carving, clay sculpting and metal embossing. Fashion wise too (since I believe art is fashion is art), the city doesn't cease to delight you with colorful embroidered jootis & mojadees, silver jewelry, voluminous mirror-worked ghaghras with matching cholis, patchwork bedsheets & cushions and seaters with con shell work. There is art in every nook and corner!
Superficially, it appears that artists in Udaipur are living on the edge, finding it difficult to make ends meet, but the reality is quite the opposite. An unassuming, rather-modest artist would have recently completed a commissioned project of 25 artworks in miniature style for some boutique hotel in Paris; his other counterpart would have delivered a family portrait for a Spanish tourist; another would have travelled back from Dubai after finishing a wall mural for a client. Do not, by any means, underestimate the power of art or the reach and impact of an artist.
An American artist Waswo X Waswo, who moved to Udaipur in 2002 to discover and re-introduce the dying art of hand-coloring black and white photographs, is a living example of an art conservationist. Artist Rajesh Soni owns Gallery One where he teaches miniature art to visiting foreigners by day and does hand-coloring by night. Shahid Parvez, another brilliant artist, has his own workplace on a busy street where passersby can see him in action and are welcome to hop in, browse and buy his art. His gallery, Pristine, located in the heart of Bhatiyani Chohata (a bustling street behind the City Palace), exhibits works by his sister and wife as well. Bhupesh Kavadia's contemporary art gallery Bougainvillaea, perched on the edge of the magnificent Fatehsagar lake and catering mainly to artists from Rajasthan, is another example of an art lover who wants to make a difference in the art scene in Udaipur.
I was lucky enough to find miniature artist Lala, who in his cramped but artistic studio meets residence just off the City Palace, helped me in getting a hands-on experience of the magical world of miniature art. Although I could dedicate only two days to learning from him, Lala was very patient and spent his valued time on explaining and showing me the intricacies of the-art form. We decided to do the regular Mughal-type of art to learn the details. I truly owe him a lot.
Soon after, I did a series of ten small works of nude men in my style but with the miniature technique.
Thank you Lala Sir!