He used to cut trees, now he paints wildlife

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Nagaraj has been involved in wildlife conservation activities in Chitradurga district

As a child, Nagaraj D. often visited the Jogimatti forest area in Chitradurga every day to collect firewood. On a few occasions, forestry officers caught him and punished him for trespassing, locking him in their guesthouse for an hour. Today, Nagaraj of Nagu Arts is invited by the Forestry Department of All Karnataka to draw paintings depicting wildlife.

The 52-year-old artist has painted at least 500 paintings on structures owned by the Forestry Department to raise awareness of wildlife.

“I used to collect firewood in the forest as a child and earned a few rupees a day. Back home, I painted what I saw in the forest. With the encouragement of my friends, I pursued my passion for painting, ”Nagaraj said.

No training

Nagaraj D. with one of his paintings.

Nagaraj D. with one of his paintings.

He dropped out of studies after SSLC and was never trained in the arts. “Everything I have learned comes from my own experiences on the web,” he said.

One day, while drawing on a wall near his house, Ramachandra Nayak, doctor and art lover, notices his work and invites him to his retirement home. He commissioned a painting of Nayakanahatti Thippeswamy, a deity, offering 100.

“I was delighted by his gesture. The amount he gave me is worth around 10,000 today, ”he recalls.

Gradually he gave up the job of collecting firewood and decided to focus on writing banners, signs and helping students in B.Ed classes prepare teaching materials. Later, he chose photography as a hobby. Initially, he borrowed a camera, paying rent of 10 yen per day. Now he is popular on social media platforms for his wildlife photographs and vivid displays of the historic Fort of Chitradurga and other tourist attractions.

Nagaraj D. with one of his paintings.

Nagaraj D. with one of his paintings.

A senior officer in the Forestry Department, Srinivasulu, now a member-secretary of KSPCB, was one of the first officers to notice his talent.

“The officer appreciated my paintings when he was in Chitradurga and commissioned paintings from Dandeli. From there, many officers invited me to paint, ”he said.

He later painted wild animals in Anekal in the urban district of Bengaluru. This caught the attention of many senior officers who gave assignments to other locations.

Raise awareness

Gururaj B. Sankeshwar, Anekal Wildlife Range Forestry Officer, said The Hindu that Nagaraj had a rare talent and that his paintings are alive. “His paintings have been helpful in educating the public about wildlife,” he said.

Nagaraj D. with one of his paintings.

Nagaraj D. with one of his paintings.

Mr. Nagaraj has participated in wildlife conservation activities in Chitradurga.

“I have built more than 20 small check dams in the forests. They have been useful for wildlife. I have also planted hundreds of trees. It’s kind of like a return to nature, because I had cut many trees for firewood decades ago, ”he said.


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