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Paul Fernandes: Bangalore Pictorian

You may know him best for his quirky and whimsical, idealistic and funny cartoons about the city of Bangalore. Posters, maps, postcards, book illustrations and more. Paul Fernandes is a man who sees things slightly askew, not quite like the rest of the world. But his view translated on pen and paper, or paintbrush and paper, to be more precise, has provide many a Bangalorean a little extra cheer.

By careful exaggeration of spaces, postures and pose, a cartoon may invite viewers to re-live a short story of their own. “Or better still, a tall story,” beams Paul Fernandes, adding, “I work towards a style that can adapt, grow and be refreshing.”

Creator of cartoons, illustrations and the art of story-telling, formidable skills to be reckoned with, we wondered what it took to be a Paul Fernandes.
“While the art of cartooning has always been a prime focus, I am interested in the process of looking at the cartoon also as a painting. Something one can look at for a longer time and enjoy. The bridging of this space makes the cartoon a story-telling exercise too!” says the artist whose every illustration, as Bangaloreans know, equals a thousand fun-filled words.

The space between the iteration and the final artwork involves a hard day’s work comprising 12 to 14 hours at Paul’s desk. For out here, emerge works worth a million laughs between the posters Bang Bang Bangalore, Sillycon City, The Ambassador of India, Shine Boards and One Misty Morning Up in Kodaikanal, apart from his illustrative works in two books On a High Note and Peter Colaco’s Bangalore.

There’s much that transpires between what has to be done to come undone. “I try to mix the day up with things that ‘have to be done' with things that 'should be done' and pleasurable work that 'doesn't have to be done at all' you know,” guffaws the artist, who is expanding his line of ‘mood boosters’ – there are mugs and coasters and with Paul’s illustrations on the anvil!

Among the pleasures of Paul’s life is a tiny little gallery tucked away in quiet, old Richard’s Town. And it’s an aPaulogy!

“It isn’t a landmark, but provides the viewer with a happy and nostalgic walk down memory lane. There are roughly about 60-70 watercolour prints, which depict a languid, sleepy Bangalore,” says Paul. His art recalls a graceful gentle city and its hangouts – essentially the swinging 70s. An idyllic Bangalore with its tree lined roads, fresh and unpolluted...

Depicted through the words ‘Do you remember...!’ Fernandes’s work always manages to provoke up a happy, heady conversation among the people Paul meets. “These words are what aPaulogy has begun to mean to me. They have a way of being spoken when people are relaxed, and not in a mad rush to get anywhere. They are normally the precursor to a quick witty story, a quirky memory or even some wildy amusing anecdote,” he says.

While an anecdote finds its expression through the hilarious hues of Paul’s palette, according to him, many youngsters drawn to aPaulogy (aka Bangalore’s backyard,) also wonder whether walking more, cycling more, paying attention to the environment a little more could get back the city of the 70s – just like the pictures on the walls at aPaulogy. “And I would like to take them on a road show to old beautiful cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Mangalore and Cochin where there is so much beauty left to look after and save for the future,” says Paul.

In fact, Paul looks for any excuse to be outdoors. “I can’t do without pottering around the garden, playing and listening to music, eating good food, meeting good friends and family. But any excuse to be outdoors, either just to wander or run an errand is always welcome,” smiles Paul boyishly. “I dream of the old days of simple travel to faraway places and no agenda on my mind,” he says.

Like the old days on Ulsoor Lake. “For 50 paisa you could hire a boat for the day, sing songs and gaze into the eyes of the girl you loved. But today you have the boatman accompany you on the ride, a bit of a dampener on what could have been quite a romantic hour or two,” he grins.

His girl, his wife of twenty-five years is Renu. Paul considers her to be his critic, friend and advisor and claims that that she makes him work ‘far too hard’.
“Renu and I studied art together at the Faculty of Fine Art Baroda. She has a keen and demanding eye for beauty and detail. She has taught me that 'short cuts' are fine only if you get the results you are looking for.”

The bonding is for all to see, Paul is essentially a homebird. “I am happiest chirping with the other birds at home and at ease with those who share similar passions and interests,” he says. Of the people who come and go into Paul’s life, he finds ‘edutainment’ in every interaction. “So, I sometimes prescribe myself ‘people-less’ days to recharge and focus.”

On those ever-so-often ‘wander off on his own’ days, Paul connects with Bangalore, which has been home to him since the day he was born in the Old Maternity Block at St Martha’s hospital. “This city is a home, always caring, loving and supportive in times of joy or despair. Her weather, colours, corners and smells, always familiar, always waiting for you to pass by and enjoy them.

The ups and downs of life strongly reflected in her winding, sloping roads,” he says.

A city, he shared with his chief mentor and guide, Peter Colaco who passed away recently. “I used to find my way to him with all my serious mind jams and almost always come away with a quick, simple solution. Today, I can still have a quiet conversation with him,” confesses Paul.

While Peter has moved to greener pastures up in heaven, Paul continues to wander the crevices between Bangalore’s blues, reds and greens. “For,” says Paul, “the greens define this gracious, garden city, its jacaranda mood blues and Gulmohur flaming reds gently remind us to look after the greens.”