BALAKONG: It’s never too late to start a new hobby or to return to one you started in childhood. Particularly if you put it on the back burner in your prime years while you worked for someone else for your living.
Siva Nair, a retired copywriter who now paints full time, would tell you so. He’s 74, but he’s just a kid compared to Grandma Moses, the American folk painter who was crowned “Young Woman of the Year” when she was 88.
Siva has his studio one floor above a tile factory in Kampung Baru Balakong on a street where passers-by are rare sights.
It’s certainly a quiet place and that’s exactly how he likes it. It’s his little oasis of calm, where he can, to his heart’s content, paint gorgeous pictures in the tradition that is sometimes called Realism.
If he was unhappy with the intrusion, he didn’t show it when FMT Lifestyle met him at his studio recently.
“I used to draw when I was five years old,” he said. “Would draw on the sand, using a stick to draw all kinds of things.”
At school, his art teachers noticed his talent and imparted to him a style similar to that of 18th Century English artist John Constable, famous for the landscapes he painted in the Romantic tradition.
He helped sketch artworks for fellow students sitting for art examinations. One friend actually submitted Siva’s painting as his own. “He got an A and I got a B,” he said.
After his graduation, he did consider becoming a full-time artist. However, such an idea was not feasible back then.
In search of work, Siva left Gopeng for Kuala Lumpur, where he found employment as an advertising copywriter.
He retired in 2018. “I didn’t have anything to do,” he said. “I couldn’t watch TV all the time. It’s boring.”
At a friend’s urging, he went to several local art exhibitions and those visits inspired him to pick up his brushes once more.
He was almost apologetic about painting realistic pictures. “Abstract art is a different ballgame,” he said. “I never went into it because I’m not much of an intellectual person.”
He has since found his niche. “I love koi fish because of their gentleness, their gracefulness and the fact that there are so many varieties and colours involved.”
According to him, paintings with three koi fish are good gifts for fledgling businessmen, six for ambitious entrepreneurs and nine for prosperous tycoons.
Aside from koi, he also paints landscapes and he considers his attention to detail to be his trademark.
It’s quite different from what he used to do. “As a youngster, I had the basics, but I was not so detailed. Everything was superficial.”
He largely derives inspiration from photographs, especially when they capture the serenity of his beloved home state.
“Perak is so different from KL,” he said. “It is a very tranquil state. It’s green. We have some of the best sceneries over there.”
He has worked to capture these qualities on canvas, painting limestone hills and small towns before they are lost to time.
In fact, he is the co-founder of the Gopeng Heritage and Tourism Association, which aims to preserve the town’s heritage.
Siva is particularly proud of his hometown, which during his childhood was a tin mining town bustling with activity, not the sleepy hamlet that it is today.
“I go to Perak regularly to capture all these sceneries so that the people here in KL, the future generation, will know that these places exist and you should go and visit them.”
He fully intends to continue painting for the foreseeable future. “This old dog has learnt a lot of new tricks,” he said.
“Art is a form of spirituality to me. It gives me calm. It is a form of meditation. When I am painting, I don’t think of anything else.”
Keep tabs on Siva Nair’s newest works by following him on Facebook.