With more people looking for a creative outlet this month, Amritha Venketakrishnan of Chennai’s popular Hindustan Trading Company has a list to get you started
While gallerists and auction houses turned online in a big way to survive the grip of the pandemic, so have art stores. One such is the Hindustan Trading Company in Chennai’s Royapettah, Amritha Venketakrishnan, 33, who has been running it for a while now, has also been busy online with the store’s activities. HTC has attracted everyone from MF Husain and fellow artists to art professors and students since her grandfather started it in 1974 but Venketakrishnan has taken it further with her inventory, workshops and Instagram takeovers. The workshops, especially on trends like acrylic pouring and calligraphy, have been known to sell out in seconds. Then the pandemic put a stop to that and the store, like most others, had to stay closed during the lockdowns.
Amritha Venketakrishnan | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Noting the increasing interest in art during the first wave, at a time when outfits like Amazon could not operate either, Venketakrishnan began taking orders herself. “I was the only one who could probably access the store,” she recalls, describing how she would take home supplies and deliver them to customers who lived within a five-kilometre radius. She also used the extra time to expand the business and to focus on social media. “Live at 5” on their Instagram page was a series of collaborations with well-known artists, including The Hindu’s cartoonist, Keshav Venkataraghavan. “Honestly, it was just mesmerising,” she says, referring to his watercolour skills. “It’s great to see the finished artwork, but usually no one ever sees the process up close.”
While the third wave may affect plans for upcoming workshops – Sonali Singh Rao (@sonalisinghrao on Instagram), a resin artist, will be conducting a workshop, as will Tejo, a doodle artist (@tejo_oo on Instagram) – Venketakrishnan knows the demand for professional art supplies will continue. Here she puts together a list of bestsellers and new entrants, be it Edding Germany’s hobby paint markers or Jacquard USA’s steam-set silk dyes.
Amit Kapoor’s Escoda brush set
Escoda Amit Kapoor brush set | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Escoda Barcelona has been making brushes since 1933 and is known for its Kolinsky sable and hog bristle brushes. Only brushes with synthetic hair are available in India but they are just as popular, especially those by brand ambassadors like Amit Kapoor. “Most artists have their ‘favourite brushes’ and use only three or four at a time,” explains Venketakrishnan. Kapoor, a leading master of the watercolour medium, has a signature set and his Escoda Barcelona brushes are priced at ₹7160.
Olive oil soap
Olive oil soap | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Paintbrushes can be challenging to maintain, which is why brush soaps are essential to help them maintain their shape and extend their life span. Escoda’s olive oil soaps are about ₹800 each.
Resin and aluminum pen holders
Resin pen holders | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Eldorado resin pen holders by Luis Creations are popular with calligraphy artists, especially the ones with crystal clear resin and embedded gold-coloured foil. Featured here are the pastel Moblique Al pen holders, also from Luis Creations. Priced from approximately ₹2667 onwards.
Remote controlled easel | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Mabef easels are professional and yes, expensive. These remote-controlled beauties are ideal for restoration work, with an electrically powered raising and tilting motion. Made of stain-resistant beech wood and walnut lacquered, with an extensible sliding mast. There are tabletop and big heavy-duty versions, ranging from ₹6000 to ₹1,00,000.
Fine Tec paints
These have a purified base made with gum arabic and high-quality pearlescent pigments. Highly pigmented, they are great not just for painting but also for calligraphy and sketching. The colours adhere to even wood and stone and are good for mixing. Single colours are priced at ₹1256 onwards.
Porcelain travel palettes
Porcelain travel palette | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Etchr mini palettes are tidy travel companions. Designed by Stephanie Law, they are made from smooth porcelain and thus easy to clean. Specially designed for watercolour, but acrylic, gouache, and miniature paints work well too. The set of two palettes – one for storing paint and the other for mixing colours – come in a small, easy to pack steel tin. Approximately ₹5175
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