It was a chance encounter with a series of paintings on Ballerina adorning a corporate office signed in his name that lead us to the 'artist' behind the 'artiste' Raqesh Vashisht.
We discovered that these were not his one-off works, in fact the actor, who is currently playing a lead in a daily soap, manages to paint around four canvases every month, such is his passion. And unlike some actors who took to the brush much later in life, to broaden their creative horizons, Raqesh isn't new to it. He has beenpainting
since he was a kid and his works have won a National award as well. Though he doesn't remember exactly when, he says, "I took a pencil and paper and it just flowed."
You don't need a curator's eye to say that his acrylic works manifest a sense of serenity. The subjects are closer home, and he lends them his own interpretation. "Ever since cell phone cameras came into being, I click pictures randomly of whatever appeals to me. However, it's never copied on the canvas like it's in the photographs. I like to only capture the feel."
Some other times, he just surrenders himself to the colours and the canvas, he says. "Some times when I paint, I don't know what's going to come out. Even I am surprised with what finally emerges," he confesses. However, whether he knows where he's going or not, he is very particular about the theme and the subject of his works. "When I want to put a painting on my wall, I'd want it to tell a story, and not a dark story. My works have no blood or darkness to it," so much that when he painted a rag picker, he lent her quite some glamour. "I just gave the picture a thought process, dreams of a woman from that world."
In spite of him rendering his own interpretations, his works have a sense of simplicity that could be attributed to an unusual influence he had as a kid. "In the compound of an old temple near my house was a man who'd paint and sculpt. "He had me intrigued. I'd watch him for hours. I learned so many things from him."
Over the years, he has of course improvised his techniques for finer works. "Four years ago, when I was renovating my house, I observed the masons and picked up the knife trick from them." Now he has hung up his brushes, and it's only knife and fingers for him. "It less of a hassle," he feels.
He is also particular about his colours and black holds a special preference, as, "It accentuates the subject like no other colour can. It's not the strokes or the sketch that really make a painting, but the colours. Red and orange are also typically me."
And his favourite subject is, of course, women. Especially since he says he's good with expressions, eyes being his strength to convey them. "Their mysterious qualities can be portrayed well on canvas."
Though the actor's works have created quite a buzz around them, with the most recent going for a neat six figure sum, it's funny how he had to paint in front of his friends to prove that it's indeed him and not a ghost painter. "Even Riddhi (his fiance) keeps saying that she doesn't believe it's me. Now that we are getting married, she'll get to see me paint every often. Her doubts will be put to rest soon," he says laughing.
Raqesh is also planning to hold an exhibition in November, he tells us. "I definitely want people to see my works. Expect to see a lot of variety."