Dheeraj Kolla has taken the sculpting world by storm. Known as ‘Pencil Dheeraj,’ he is a micro-artist, has spoken and been featured on TedX Talks and History Tv18.
Having masterminded revolutions like #shareameal, Dheeraj also has recalled his most memorable moment— meeting the President— Ramnath Kovind. He has been listed in the Vajra World Records for sculpting an idol of Lord Shiva on a pencil-tip.
A mesmerizing Dheeraj spoke to Team Storiyaan about sculpture, his life as an artist, and more.
Questions and answers
Everyone creates art using a pencil, but you made the pencil an art piece. How did you come up with this idea?
In my childhood, I used to do painting, watercolor sketches, and other types of art. Back then, we used to have a small kid in our mind, so that’s how I used to try my hand on other art forms. I have searched for other media too, but yeah, Pencil art was something that I started around my 5th standard.
How difficult is it to create a micro-sculpture than the average sculpture?
The difficulty level is the same. Creating a micro-sculpture is a bit tougher because we have everything pre-planned in the giant sculptures. In the miniature ones, if we mishandle anything, it can break easily. We can’t even replace the parts, so that makes miniature-sculpture difficult. We need to have a lot of patience while doing this. I mean, giant sculptures require patience, but these require a bit more precision and dedication.
You also work for Naavigo – an event company. So, how do you schedule time? Do you have a particular schedule for sculpting?
Sculpting is a peace of mind for me. It’s a kind of stress buster. So I generally go sculpting at night or on weekends when I’m free from the company stuff. This is how I plan for the same.
How important would you say is the factor of patience for creating micro-sculptures?
Not only for micro-sculptures, but patience is also required for everything, be it education or official work. Everything won’t come handy in life. Therefore, a lot of patience is needed to get on the stage. Our expectations are the key to success.
How supportive was your family regarding the gradual career shifts?
Previously my family was in a dilemma, but later on, they supported me at each stage of my life; whenever I planned to do something new. They have high hopes for my future. I did receive immense support from my parents. Yet in the beginning, they were in a dilemma whether my decision to change careers would be fruitful.
Do you plan on setting up classes to impart your knowledge and mentor others about this art?
Yes, I have already taken up around 40+ workshops all over India, and I’m planning on doing online workshops too. Maybe next week or so.
‘Pencil Dheeraj’ is said to be your nickname in college. Before others started respecting you for your work, did such teasing affect your motivation?
Sometimes yes, but again I took it seriously. I never took their comments to heart, but to get adequate recognition for them to respect me was my ulterior motive. So I took it as a challenge and coped up with all these things.
Pencil tip carving is a slow process that should be given utmost care not to break the tip. Say you were working on a crucial sculpture and the tip broke, how do you bring yourself back up to redo the sculpture? What keeps you motivated?
My ulterior motive is to get the sculpture done at any cost. I have a clear picture of what I need to do and what I need to create before it. I do a lot of sketching as I need to get a better perception (the 3D modules) of everything. I sketch the sculpture on a paper before doing this. I keep self-motivating. I do get demotivated whenever the lead breaks for the 8th time. Sometimes, it takes me 5-10 days for a single sculpture. So it’s all about self-motivation and dedication towards your goal.
You’d reached out to artists in Russia and China, but nobody had responded because you had nothing to present. Do you wish to contact those artists, now that you’ve mastered the art?
Not precisely, I had contacted them, as I needed a mentor for my work, but I got no response. But yeah, I’ll be fine connecting with them. I didn’t take it as a challenge to show them my achievements.
You’ve done over 800 sculptures and 180 names and logos. Among such a wide variety of options, which piece would you say is your favorite, and why?
Firstly, I’ve done around 2000+ names and 200+ sculptures and logos. Every artwork of mine is special for me as it goes through a lot of processing; it requires a lot of time and patience. But for a choice, I have a couple of sculptures that are special to me like – the statues of Lord Buddha, Shiva, a mother, and a baby.
#Shareameal was a movement in 2017 to feed the needy. What was the inspiration behind such a cause?
After my 10th, I used to work for a couple of NGOs and organizations. I came across a campaign called #shareameal on Facebook. He started sharing a single meal every day to a needy person and posting it on social media with #shareameal. I inquired about the same and took the challenge, and on the 200th day of my campaign, I asked 200 of my friends to do the charity. Some people named my charity a publicity stunt, but again, it’s all about the mindset. So I asked 200 of my friends to do the same thing, and all my friends from around the world; few from Australia, few from the USA, and other parts of the world did the same. It reached around 20,000 people the same day(the hashtag). Many people from my circle did the charity; they might not have posted it on social media, but it created a massive impact on society.
Eggshell carving is an extraordinary talent as it sounds. How did you cross by the term eggshell carving?
As I explored mediums to sculpt on, I came across eggshell carving, which struck my mind. Eggshells are too brittle and break easily with a single stroke. So I thought of testing my skills on eggshells too. That’s how I came across eggshell carving. I’ve done a couple of artwork, and I inspire even my sister. She has done a fantastic sculpture on an eggshell.
You mentioned that meeting the President was the most memorable experience. How does it feel to know that your goal since you were a nine-year-old has been achieved?
It was an amazing experience for me when I met the president in 2018. The day I met him, I didn’t have any words to speak, because no one expected that I’d get an opportunity to talk with the president of India. I had a time limit of 5 minutes —one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
To create something in that miniature space, your artistic practice requires much care. How much time do you spend working on a single piece?
Sometimes it might take around 5 to 10 minutes; if the sculpt is normal, then a minute would work. Yet, some sculptures and logos take approximately 2 to 3 weeks because they need a lot of practice.
You were awarded the Pride of Telangana and Vajra World record. Was that a moment of recognition for you as a micro artist?
Yes, I received the prize for one of my artworks. I have made 2 records of miniature art on a pencil. Pride in Telangana was the one which gave me a good recognition. The whole award ceremony was filled with prominent personalities from Telangana, and as an artist, it was a fantastic experience for me.
You’re the owner of the Dheeraj ARTitude Organization and also an inspiration for many students. What do you think is the most important thing for a leader?
I feel that a leader should be the person who has a good grip. It’s more of exploring and guiding them, making them the next leader for what they want to achieve.
1. Lead or chalk – Lead
2. Favorite artist? -Every artist is my favorite. I see what someone’s good at so that I can inculcate the best.
3. One thing you would like to try that you haven’t done yet– I wanted to have a good grip on musical instruments like guitar or flute.
4. Carving names or carving objects-Carving objects
5. Art to you is -Piece of mind.