Sonam Wangchuk, popularly known as Tsip, was featured in Kuensel today. Tsip means “astrologer”. Can also mean “wiz kid”. Our wiz kid is a struggling artist.
The Self-Portrait of a Struggling Young Artist
“There are so many mediums of expressing yourself through art,” says the quiet but passionate artist Sonam Wangchuk.
Sonam has been painting and sketching for the last 11 years. Sonam remembers he was around 11 when he completed his first painting. “I don’t recall what flower it was exactly, but I painted a white flower from this old photograph I found,” he says, trying to remember every detail.
Besides participating in nationwide competitions every now and then, Sonam had his name stamped over all art competitions in his school years. Today, he credits Asha Karma, the founder of VAST for moulding and nurturing him as an artist. “It’s because of his unrelenting support and encouragement that I still do what I do today,” says Sonam, with a lot of appreciation and admiration for his mentor.
Sonam bagged second place during the art competition held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations in 2005 and came first in the Bhutan art movement, which was organized by VAST.
Sonam left his studies to become a full time artist and spends most of his time at VAST. Lately, he admits that he has not been able to produce any paintings for three months. “It’s really difficult to paint something when you aren’t inspired enough…and sometimes when you’re not in the mood, this period can go on for months,” he says. He quickly adds that this period is only momentary. “I never fear running out of ideas.”
The young artist gets his inspiration from the cultural express show on CCTV. “They showcase very talented artists, new mediums of art and new ideas there,” he says. He also constantly browses for photographs and pictures in magazines as other sources of inspiration.
Sonam’s paintings don’t always convey messages. “I don’t want to restrict myself, so I just paint whatever comes to my head,” he says. Depending on his mood and the type of painting, Sonam takes more than three days to finish one painting, while he finishes smaller paintings in just three to four hours. “If the painting is simple and small, it doesn’t take long, but if you’re inculcating hidden meanings in your painting, then it can take days to finish it,” he says.
But Sonam says painting is a very expensive hobby. “Financially, it’s very challenging…the material needed to produce good quality art is very costly… the market for artwork is also very small in Bhutan and, with less tourists visiting, it’s very difficult to sell our work,” he adds. “As an artist, you don’t always want to do what other people ask you to do, which means there’s no guarantee that your work will sell,” he says. “So my advice for other aspiring artists is not to opt for this profession if you want to live a luxurious life in Bhutan, unless you feel you’re the next Picasso,” he says, half jokingly. Most of his work sell from anywhere between Nu 10,000 to Nu 20,000.
Sonam, who also sculpts, enjoys painting portraits most. Asked what he would paint on his last day on earth, the artist quickly answers, “A self portrait. That way, I’ll live on through my portrait.”