Not many people can draw a decent portrait or any design on paper, let alone on a piece of leaf.
But R Sasitharan not only designs intricate portraits and other complicated religious symbols on paper, but even sculpts them using a specialised pen knife.
Astro Ulagam caught up with the 35-year-old who recalled getting into the art form out of sheer boredom.
"I'm a teacher with a vocational college and I was transferred to Langkawi from my hometown in Tanjung Malim, Perak, five years ago.
"Being away from my family, I was bored out of my head, so I spent a lot of time thinking what to do," Sasi recalled.
That was when he came across YouTube videos of leaf art, and upon more research on Google, he fell in love with the art form.
Sasi chose the leaf of the peepal tree (arasa maram), which has high medicinal value and religious significance, as his medium.
After much trial and errors - more than 100 tries to be precise, Sasi eventually found the "right way" to carve images into the leaves.
"Seeing me carving the designs, my friends told me to post them on Instagram. I posted the videos on the platform, as well as TikTok, and soon, compliments and demands started pouring in," he said.
The response for his work has been overwhelming, he noted, citing an instance where he carved Cooku With Comali Shivangi's face on a leaf and she shared it on her social media.
"After she shared it, I received many compliments, including from celebrities in India," Sasi said.
Sasi does not draw the designs straight on the leaf, as how a conventional drawing would work.
His method involves printing out the black and white image of a design he wants to work on, and then tracing the image onto the leaf via a special lighting technique.
Once this is done, the images are carved out using a pen knife - something that needs a whole lot of focus, and patience.
The process can take up to two days, from the time the leaves are sourced, dried after being soaked in water, and the carving process is done.
There have also been times where his work has gone to waste after hours of carving, after he accidentally cut out more than the needed amount of leaf. When this happens, Sasi has had to start from stratch, on another canvas (leaf).
According to Sasi, he can get an average of 30 demands for carving a month, but it had gone up to 50 at one point of time.
"I don't stress myself taking more orders than I can chew. Most of the time, I only do projects where I can better myself, but I work on orders from customers on weekends.
"I typically receive orders from customers on my Instagram account or TikTok," he said.
Asked for tips for aspiring artists, Sasi said one should learn to harness technology to their advantage.
"Many people have previously criticised me for being on TikTok, despite my profession in education, but I never heeded their words.
"I used the platform to showcase my talents and got recognized for it, and others should do the same too," he said.
If you are interested to have your image, or an image of your liking immortalized on a leaf, you can reach Sasi at his Instagram page here or at mobile number 011-65140887.
Photos source: R Sasitharan
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