Meet Prakash Michael. 56 years old, freelance graphic designer and an alumnus of the JJ School of Art. Prakash runs a graphic design studio in Bangalore and is one of the most resourceful art directors I have met or worked with.
Way back, when there was no desktop publishing or Photoshop, Prakash did the layouts, assembled his artworks and somewhere down the line, nipped into his dark room to print bromides of b&w logos and images. A true one-stop shop in drawing board publishing.
Over the years, the end-to-end responsibilities of freelance became a serious limiting factor. "I just didn’t have the time to pursue what has for long been the passion of my life," says Prakash. And the passion he refers to is art, painting and oil on canvas. I chatted with him recently, to retrace early stumbling blocks and why he put on hold something that he always wanted to do.
Was it difficult to follow through into a painting career after JJ?
We were a large family in Mumbai and my father did a great job in bringing us up. My way of making a contribution was to offer to pay for my education, which I did. Right through my years at JJ, I worked at advertising agencies in the Fort area and earned what paid for fees and course material.
Work was easy and money quicker with graphic design; you finished a project and you got paid for it. Those days, students and trainees were paid a pittance on freelance – but then I had to make it work for me.
Looking back, Prakash gives me a very interesting take on freelancing and graphic design. "It’s like a roller coaster you just can’t get off – the pace is hectic, but there’s a high with many peaks."
Why does freelance take away so much of your time?
Freelance has always been a broad spectrum for me – simply because I need to tackle the whole enchilada on assignments. Which includes design, layouts, photography, finishing of images, digital artworks and print supervision. Add client servicing to that list and it can seem never ending. I wake up at five in the morning, and rarely go to sleep before twelve. For me, without exaggeration, breakfast, lunch and dinner are 15-minute breaks.
Even during my stint in the Gulf, free time was when you had five minutes to brush your teeth – leave alone time with a paint brush.
So how did canvas replace the monitor in front of you?
My wife found a few canvases of mine, done 35 years ago and sighed wistfully. She said I certainly would have had a better work-life balance as a painter; and maybe, a lot more money 🙂
I looked at those canvases, done when I was a student and found promise that didn’t find wings. Almost like the commercial you see on TV these days, where a young boy turns dad – holding back a lot of the things that he so much wanted to do.
I decided that enough was enough. I went down to the nearest art store and picked up everything I would need – paints, canvases, brushes…the works. And suddenly, images began to form on white space.
So, where do you go from here in terms of making it work?
I have already completed five canvases. It takes me three to four days to finish a medium-sized painting if I work in the afternoons. I intend to get an initial collection of around 25 paintings, after which I’d like to do a preview with an art consultant in the city.
I haven’t really been in touch with the art circuit in Bangalore and I guess I really need to do the rounds and talk to gallery owners and serious art buyers. Which is easier said than done – I know that.
Will you continue to do graphic design, if things work out on the art front?
Graphic design is still bread and butter for me. It has short turnaround cycles and gives me quick returns; it has also been my primary business model, if you can call it that.
But with my passion-come-true, there’s some hope that I will slow down on pace and look at life from a whole new perspective. I now feel inspired and fulfilled – which is good reason to thank my wife, my two sons and an inner circle of friends who encouraged me and made this possible.
Just goes to show that you can’t make work an excuse – not for something you really want to do.
You can reach Prakash Michael at this mail id : epm22000 AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk. And let’s hope you won’t get in touch with him on a design job.⊕